What is Intellectual Disability?
First, let’s talk about the definition of intelligence. It refers to one’s general mental capability that involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience. An Intellectual Quotient (IQ) of 100 is considered average.
Intellectual disability (ID-formerly known as mental retardation) is a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functioning and skills, including communication, social and self-care skills. These limitations can cause a child to develop and learn more slowly or differently than a typically developing child. Intellectual disability can happen any time before a child turns 18 years old, even before birth. A child’s IQ should be 70 or lower in order to be diagnosed with ID.
How does Intellectual Disability happen?
The most common causes of intellectual disabilities are:
- Prenatal: sometimes an intellectual disability is caused by genetics conditions, such as: Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders and Phenylketonuria (PKU).
- Problems during pregnancy: sometimes, the mom might get an illness or infection that can harm the baby (such as rubella). Taking certain medicines while pregnant or drinking alcohol can also damage a baby's developing brain.
- Problems during birth: if the baby is born way too early, he is at risk of having intellectual disability. Any complications during labor, such as the baby not getting enough oxygen, can also cause ID.
- Problems after birth: diseases like whooping cough, the measles, or meningitis can cause intellectual disabilities. They can also be caused by extreme malnutrition, not getting appropriate medical care, being exposed to poisons like lead or mercury, or a serious head injury.
How common is Intellectual Disability?
Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability. According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 1-3% of the general population have ID.
What we know about Intellectual Disability
- ID is not a disease nor is it contagious.
- It cannot be cured. With the right support, children with ID can learn to do many things. They just need to take more time or learn differently than other children.
- Many people with ID lead productive lives and learn to function on their own. Others need a structured environment to be most successful.
- Intellectual disability is significantly more common in low-income countries.