What is Intellectual Disability? What are the symptoms and treatment of Intellectual Disability? And how can AC Cares assist a family in dealing with the symptoms of Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability is a term that encompasses challenges with general mental abilities that affect daily functioning. There are two main areas of functioning: intellectual and adaptive. Intellectual functioning includes learning, problem-solving, and judgment abilities. Adaptive functioning includes communication and independent living abilities. Intellectual disability is characterized by intellectual and adaptive deficits beginning early on in the development period.
Who does intellectual disability affect? About 1% of the population has an intellectual disability, and of those around 85% have mild intellectual disability. Males are more likely to be diagnosed with intellectual disability.

Possible signs of intellectual disability:

  • Delayed development such as sitting, crawling, standing, walking, or talking;
  • Persistence of childlike behavior possibly demonstrated in speaking style;
  • Trouble understanding social rules and customs such as taking turns, or waiting in line;
  • Failure to appreciate and avoid dangerous situations such as playing in the street, or touching a hot stove;
  • A lack of curiosity or interest in the world around them;
  • Difficulty learning new information despite significant effort and repetition;
  • Difficulty learning new skills despite significant practice;
  • Difficulty solving ordinary, simple problems;
  • Trouble remembering things;
  • Difficulty meeting educational demands;
  • Excessive behavioral problems such as impulsivity and poor frustration tolerance.

How is intellectual disability diagnosed?

Intellectual functioning is measured by individual intelligence testing. Care is taken that tests administered are comprehensive, culturally appropriate, and psychometrically sound. Standardized testing is used as part of the diagnostic process. This may include a full-scale IQ test, though it is no longer a requirement for adequate diagnosis. A full-scale IQ score of 70 to 75 indicates a significant deficit, and an IQ below 70 is considered a marker for mental retardation. This being said, one’s score must be interpreted in context. Full-scale IQ scores may not accurately reflect one’s overall intellectual functioning. Thus, broad testing and clinical judgment are necessary to properly assess an individual.

When observing one for intellectual disability, three areas of adaptive functioning are considered: conceptual, social, and practical. Conceptual functioning encompasses language, reading, writing, math, reasoning, knowledge, and memory. Social functioning includes empathy, social judgment, communication skills, the ability to follow rules and to make and keep friendships. Finally, practical functioning refers to independence in areas like personal care, job responsibilities, managing money, recreation, and organizing school and work tasks.

In addition to standardized testing measures, adaptive functioning is assessed through interviews with the individual and others in their life (family members, teachers, and caregivers.) Through this process, the severity of the intellectual disability is discovered and identified as mild, moderate, or severe. Most individuals with intellectual disabilities are categorized as mild.

Symptoms of intellectual disability are usually evident early on. Language or motor skill delays may be seen by age two. This being said, mild levels of intellectual disability may not be apparent until a child enters school and is faced with academic challenges.

What causes Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability can stem from a number of causes. Genetics, illnesses, and trauma are all factors associated with the development of intellectual disability. Genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome, are common causes of intellectual disability present at birth. Intellectual disability may also develop following an illness (such as meningitis, whooping cough, or measles.) Head trauma during adolescence or exposure to toxins such as lead or mercury may cause the onset of intellectual disability. Brain malformation, maternal disease, and other environmental influences may contribute to intellectual disability. Labor and delivery-related events, such as infection, birthing problems, or lack of oxygen, can also contribute.


Intellectual disability is a condition that persists throughout one’s lifespan. However, early and ongoing intervention increases the likelihood of success. Early and accurate diagnosis aid the individual and their care team to focus on their strengths and needs. By doing so, they can develop a plan to ensure support in all areas of life (at home, in school/work, and community.)

Individuals and parents need not shoulder the planning alone. There are many services available to individuals and families of those with intellectual disabilities. Their aim is to allow those with intellectual disabilities to still be fully immersed in their communities. Support and services offered include early intervention, special education, family support, transition services, vocational programs, day programs from adults, housing and residential options, and case management. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 1990), protects early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities under federal law. Free availability of special education and related services to every eligible child with a disability is also required by federal law. With consistent and adequate support people with intellectual disabilities can thrive within their communities and contribute positively to society.

A documentable diagnosis is vital to eligibility for services and protection of rights, such as special education, home, and community services. The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) stresses that the main reason for evaluating individuals with intellectual disabilities is to be able to identify and put in place the supports and services that will help them thrive in the community throughout their lives.

How can we help?

At AC Cares, we can assist the family in dealing with Intellectual Disability in many ways. These would include:

Whether you are searching for a qualified doctor, treatment options, or a nutritionist, we have vetted, knowledgeable medical professionals to assist you on your journey.
Dealing with Intellectual Disability can be overwhelming and confusing for families, and we have the latest information on everything from new treatment options to medical trials to help our families in need.
Meeting with others facing similar challenges can provide a lifeline to those who feel alone, and our support groups and moderators are there to walk with you on this journey.
Group seminars and workshops on topics ranging from getting the support needed for your child at school to safety measures in the home provide instruction to prepare you for your role as advocate and caregiver.