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What is Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability (or ID) is a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functions 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. An intellectual disability can occur any time before a child turns 18, even before birth.Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability.

What is an intellectual disability?

Someone with an intellectual disability has limitations in two areas. These areas are:

  • Intellectual functioning. Also known as IQ, it refers to a person's ability to learn, reason, make decisions and solve problems.

  • Adaptive behavior. These are skills necessary for everyday life, such as communicating effectively, interacting with others, and taking care of oneself.

  • IQ (intelligence quotient) is measured by an IQ test. The average IQ is 100, with most people scoring between 85 and 115. A person is considered mentally disabled if they have an IQ below 70 to 75.

To measure a child's adaptive behavior, a professional will observe the child's skills and compare them to other children of the same age. Things that can be observed include how well the child can feed or dress themselves; how well the child can communicate with and understand others; and how the child interacts with family, friends, and other children of the same age.

Mental retardation is thought to affect about 1% of the population. Of those affected, 85% have a mild mental disability. This means that they are just a little slower than average to learn new information or skills. With the right support, most will be able to live independently as adults.

The most common types of mental disabilities:

1. Down syndrome: Down syndrome is a mental disability stemming from having part or an extra copy of chromosome 21 in the DNA. It is the most common chromosomal cause of mild to moderate mental retardation in children. Down syndrome affects development in children with Down syndrome who reach key developmental milestones later than other children of the same age. Common symptoms of Down syndrome include slow learning, short attention spans, impulsive behavior, poor judgment, and delayed language and speech development.

2. Fragile X syndrome: Fragile X syndrome is the most common form of inherited developmental and intellectual disability. This genetic disorder is the result of a change or mutation in the X chromosome. The disability affects a person's development, more so in the areas of learning and behavior. What's more, it can affect the physical appearance, communication skills, and sensitivity to light and noise of an individual with an intellectual disability.

3. Fetal alcohol syndrome: Fetal alcohol syndrome is a mental disability caused by exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy put their babies at risk of this condition. The severity of the condition depends on the baby's exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, with mothers who drink large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy increase the risk of severe symptoms in their babies.

4. Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS): Prader-Willi syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a problem with part of chromosome 15. Children born with the condition are poor breadwinners in childhood. Nevertheless, the feeding habit changes at the age of two, when children's hunger becomes insatiable, so they are unable to control their appetite. Insatiable hunger leads to problems like diabetes and obesity.

What are some of the symptoms of Intellectual Disability?

  • Sit up, crawl, or walk later than other children.

  • Learn to talk later or have trouble speaking.

  • Find it hard to remember things.

  • Have trouble understanding social rules.

  • Have trouble seeing the results of their actions.

  • Have trouble solving problems.

What causes Intellectual Disability?

Anytime something interferes with the brain’s normal development, mental retardation can occur. However, the exact cause of mental disability can only be determined in a third of cases.

The most common causes of intellectual disability are:

  • Genetic conditions: These include things like Down Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome.

  • Problems in pregnancy: Things that can disrupt fetal brain development include alcohol or drug use, malnutrition, certain infections, or preeclampsia.

  • Problems during childbirth: If the baby is deprived of oxygen during birth or is born extremely prematurely, mental retardation can occur.

  • Illness or injury: Infections such as meningitis, whooping, cough, or measles can lead to mental retardation. It can also cause serious head injuries, near-drowning, extreme malnutrition, brain infections, exposure to toxic substances such as lead, and severe neglect or abuse.

  • None of the above: For two-thirds of all children with an intellectual disability, the cause is unknown.

Treatment of Intellectual Disability?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mental retardation. The condition is lifelong and will require constant care. The key to proper treatment is early intervention. Getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as you notice early signs of the condition is essential.

Treatment comes in the form of support and cares to improve the daily functioning of the person living with the condition. There is currently no cure for mental retardation. The main goal of treatment is to improve the daily functioning of a person with this disease.


People with intellectual disabilities have different limits to their ability to learn and function in society and often learn more slowly than others.However, early and ongoing treatment in the form of support services can often help people with intellectual disabilities function normally or independently.

If your child has any signs or symptoms of an intellectual disability, contact a doctor as soon as possible.

Tips for Parents

  • Learn as much as you can about autism spectrum disorder

  • Provide consistent structure and routine

  • Connect with other parents of children with autism

  • In case of specific problems, seek professional help

  • Make time for yourself and other family members

Having a child with autism affects the whole family. It can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. It is important to pay attention to the physical and emotional health of the whole family. Geniuslane Child Development Centre provides information, resources, and support to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families.

For any query related to autism, you can call on +91-7669988833 / +91-0522-4082221

Also, you can WhatsApp on +91-9598157092

Or visit our website

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- Amrin Ahmed

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