Updated: Jan 12

Intellectual disability refers to a disability in the development of a child. This typically manifests in infancy or early childhood years. In a majority of cases, it cannot be diagnosed until the child is older than 5 years. This is because standardized tests used in determining developmental skills become reliable and valid.

Over the years, several terms have been applied to people with intellectual impairment from early life. The word ‘idiot’ was used for people with severe intellectual impairment and ‘imbecile’ for those with moderate impairment. In countries like the USA, learning disability has been generally applied to dyslexia and other specific forms of disability rather than intellectual disability.

It is unsatisfactory to define intellectual disability in terms of intelligence alone. Social criteria which includes the ability of people to lead a normal or near-normal life must be used. This disorder is chronic and often co-occurs with other mental conditions like depression, Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Intellectual disability is subdivided into it’s severity levels according to a term known as, adaptive functioning,into mild, moderate, severe and profound intellectual disability based on standard IQ testing methods. This implies the level of IQ is a key criterion in defining gender intellectual disability.

The frequent manifestation of intellectual disability includes demonstrating uniformly low performance in all kinds of intellectual tasks which include learning, short term memory, the use of concepts and problem solving. There may also be disproportionate difficulties with language or social interaction which might lead to behavioral disorders later in life.

Intellectual disability is either caused by genetic factors e.g Down Syndrome, or environmental factors which are caused by injury either during the phase of pregnancy or after pregnancy.

A child with intellectual disability is assessed by taking a history and conducting a mental state examination. He might also have to be examined physically for signs of genetic conditions which include a malformed ear and heart defects.

A standardized test is then used to grade the IQ of this patient.

Treatment for this condition includes medications which either act as supplements to boost intellectual tasks, or reduce symptoms associated with complications of the underlying condition eg. seizures and aggressiveness.

Psychological help, behavioral and supportive therapy is required to incorporate them as better individuals into the social setting.

People with intellectual disability deserve to be treated just like everyone else so the world is made a better place with you in it.

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