Intellectual disability (ID), once called mental retardation, is characterized by below-average intelligence or mental ability and a lack of skills necessary for day-to-day living. People with intellectual disabilities can and do learn new skills, but they learn them more slowly. There are varying degrees of intellectual disability, from mild to profound.
What is intellectual disability?
Someone with intellectual disability has limitations in two areas. These areas are:
- Intellectual functioning. Also known as IQ, this refers to a person’s ability to learn, reason, make decisions, and solve problems.
- Adaptive behaviors. These are skills necessary for day-to-day life, such as being able to communicate effectively, interact with others, and take care of oneself.
IQ (intelligence quotient) is measured by an IQ test. The average IQ is 100. A person is considered intellectually disabled if he or she has an IQ of less than 70 to 75.
What are the signs of intellectual disability in children?
There are many different signs of intellectual disability in children. Signs may appear during infancy, or they may not be noticeable until a child reaches school age. It often depends on the severity of the disability. Some of the most common signs of intellectual disability are:
Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking late
- Talking late or having trouble with talking
- Slow to master things like potty training, dressing, and feeding himself or herself
- Difficulty remembering things
- Inability to connect actions with consequences
- Behavior problems such as explosive tantrums
- Difficulty with problem-solving or logical thinking
The primary goal of treatment is to develop the person's potential to the fullest. Special education and training may begin as early as infancy. This includes social skills to help the person function as normally as possible. Behavioral approaches are important for people with mental retardation.
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