What is an Intellectual Disability and how is it different from Developmental Disabilities

So what are intellectual disabilities? You may have an easier time understanding the phrase mental retardation. They’re one in the same but ‘intellectual disabilities’ has been adopted by many organizations and events such as the special Olympics, in an effort to replace the old term completely.

The criteria for an intellectual disability are as follows:

*An IQ of below 70-75

*The condition manifests itself before the age of 18


*Significant limitations exist in two or more adaptive skill areas.

Adaptive skill areas just mean those daily living skills required to live and play in the community. It includes skills like communication, self-care, home living, social skills, leisure, health and safety, self-direction, functional academics, community use and work. One must have a permanent, significantly lower than average intellectual ability to be considered intellectually disabled.

To put things in simpler terms, an intellectual disability means there are limits on a person’s ability to learn and function in daily life. Problems can vary greatly from a minor disability to a severe one. Intellectual disability is the largest disability population in the world; almost 3 percent of people in the world have an intellectual disability, that’s around 200 million people! There is no discrimination when it comes to intellectual disabilities. It can happen to any race, class or education level. It can happen to any family.

The AAIDD is the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; their goal is to “Work to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities”. It’s a wonderful community of tireless people striving to help those with both developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Intellectual disabilities differ from developmental disabilities in that developmental disability is a broader category. It can include intellectual disabilities, as well as other disabilities such as physical ones that also arose before the age of 18 or during the developmental period.

Don’t think because someone has an intellectual disability that they can’t function in everyday life. There are numerous programs to help them succeed and live their life to the fullest. Also, the stereotypical disabled ‘look’ people sometimes associate with someone with a disability actually applies to only a small number of disabled people. You can’t tell if someone has an intellectual disability by looking at them.

 An intellectual disability isn’t a mental or physical disease that can be cured, although they can go through certain educational programs to assist them with their issues. In addition to ‘Borderline’, a category used to indicate someone is just above the ‘line’ for having an intellectual disability, there are 4 classes an intellectual disability can be. The classes are mild, moderate, severe, and profound. These classes are based on certain IQ ranges.

I hope this has cleared up any questions or misconceptions you had about intellectual disabilities. For more information on the subject you can visit the AAIDD (American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) website here: http://www.aamr.org/