What is Intellectual Disability?

The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) defines intellectual disability as a “term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills.” The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) defines intellectual disability as “characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills.” Intellectual disability is sometimes called cognitive disability and originates before the age of 18. A child with an intellectual disability may take longer to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs.  There are many causes of intellectual disability; the most common are genetic conditions (such as errors when genes combine), problems during pregnancy (such as the baby not developing properly during pregnancy), problems at birth (such as a baby not getting enough oxygen during labor and birth), or health problems (such as whooping cough, measles, or meningitis). Some examples of intellectual disability include Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Intellectual disability is not a disease nor a type of mental illness, like depression. It is sometimes referred to as or with developmental disability, which is a broader or umbrella term that includes autism spectrum disorders (ASD), epilepsy, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and other disorders.

We searched our database, REHABDATA, and found several articles dealing with intellectual disability. Here are a few of them:

  • Perspectives on life after high school for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities: Findings of a statewide survey of families. NARIC Accession Number: O18549.
  • Effect of equestrian therapy and onotherapy in physical and psycho-social performances of adults with intellectual disability: A preliminary study of evaluation tools based on the ICF classification. NARIC Accession Number: J63198.
  • Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities use of assistive technology devices in support provision. NARIC Accession Number: J63500.
  • Comparing teacher-directed and computer-assisted constant time delay for teaching functional sight words to students with moderate intellectual disability. NARIC Accession Number: J64396.

We also searched the NIDRR Program Database to look for projects financed by NIDRR that deal with intellectual disability. Here is a sample of the ones we found:

  • Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Community Living and Employment for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Project Number: H133B080005.
  • Comparison of Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability: Are Experiences, Supports, and Outcomes Different for those in Postsecondary Education Programs? Project Number: H133F110042.
  • Visual Impact Phase II: Using Cloud-Based Technology to Support Activities of Daily Living and Other Learning Needs to Facilitate Independence for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. Project Number: H133S120062.
  • Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities: Lifespan Health and Function. Project Number: H133B080009.

If you would like more information, please contact NARIC or submit an information request via our website. The NARIC Thesaurus still lists Mental Retardation as an approved term, along with Developmental Disabilities. Intellectual Disabilities is a candidate for inclusion in the upcoming 8th edition due in 2013.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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4 Responses to What is Intellectual Disability?

  1. Pingback: Scholarship Opportunity for Families with Living Disabilities | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  2. Pingback: What are Developmental Disabilities? | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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