Intellectual Disability FAQS


Intellectual disability affects about 1% to 3% of the population. Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behaviors, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.

The term Intellectual Disability covers the same population of individuals who were diagnosed previously with mental retardation in number, kind, level, type, and duration of the disability.

FAQS -Intellectual Disabilityboy latino soccerCAUSES

There are many causes of intellectual disability, which can include:

  • Infections (present at birth or occurring after birth)
  • Chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome
  • Environmental
  • Metabolic, such as Hyperbilirubinemia, very high bilirubin levels in babies
  • Nutritional (such as malnutrition)
  • Toxic: Intrauterine exposure to alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and other drugs
  • Trauma before and after birth
  • Unexplained: Doctors do not know the reason for the person’s intellectual disability


There are many different signs and symptoms of intellectual disability that can exist in individuals and will vary depending upon specific characteristics. These signs and symptoms may first become apparent in infancy or in some cases may not be noticeable until the child reaches school age. Some of the most common symptoms can include:

  • Learning and developing more slowly than other children same age
  • Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking much later than developmentally appropriate
  • Difficulty communicating or socializing with others
  • Lower than average scores on IQ test
  • Difficulties talking or talking late
  • Having problems remembering things
  • Inability to connect actions with consequences
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or logical thinking
  • Trouble learning in school
  • Inability to do everyday tasks like getting dressed or using the restroom without help
  • Severe intellectual disabilities, maybe paired with additional health problems such as seizures, vision problems, hearing problems, and mental disorders.


Services and supports play an important role and can enable the person to thrive throughout their lifetime. Services for Individuals with Intellectual Disability and their families are primarily there to provide adequate support to allow for full inclusion in their communities. These services touch their daily lives (education, justice, housing, recreational, employment, health care, etc.) and may include:

  • Case management: Case manager helps the person apply for Medicaid in order to get a variety of supports including daily living needs, health care, and long term care services and supports)
  • Family support (for example, respite care
  • Vocational programs
  • Day programs
  • Residential settings
  • Early intervention, based on Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Special education
  • Transition services.