Intellectual Disability

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For many years, society has used the word “retard” as slang, to refer to an individual’s level of intelligence. Although we joke around and use this term frequently, there is a population of the community that lives with an Intellectual Disability every day. The early word used to acknowledge Intellectual Disability was Mental Retardation. The term Mental Retardation was changed on October 5, 2010, when President Obama signed the Rosa Law which omitted Mental Retardation and presented Intellectual Disability, (Sweet, 2010). The long used term “Mental Retardation” left an undesirable stigma that needed to be changed.

Intellectual Disability is defined as a fundamental difficulty in learning and performing certain daily life skills, (Health, 1992). The personal capabilities in which there must be a substantial limitation are conceptual, practical, and social intelligence, (Health 1992). These areas are most affected with individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. Based alone on IQ tests about three percent of the population is considered to have intellectual disabilities and only one percent was labeled with having significant cognitive limitation, (Sulkes, 2009).

There are different levels of intellectual disabilities that are based on IQ scores. Mild Intellectual Disability has an IQ score of 52-69. People with this usually suffer from slightly impaired motor coordination ; it is often diagnosed later in age. Children that suffer with a mild disability can develop socially and have good communication skills. These individuals can be expected to learn up to a sixth grade level, by their late teens. In adulthood, these individuals will need guidance and assistance during times of unusual social or economic stress. In most cases these individuals can achieve vocational skills for self-support. Moderate Intellectual Disability has an IQ score that ranges from 36-51. In preschool, they show poor social awareness with fair motor coordination. They are able to learn to speak and communicate with others. They are expected to learn at the elementary level and may learn to travel alone in familiar places. They may learn some social and occupational skills. By adolescence, they will need assistance with economic and social decisions. They may achieve self-support by doing unskilled or semi-skilled work under sheltered conditions. In severe cases of Intellectual Disability, an individual’s IQ score ranges from 20-35. At the preschool age, these children are able to learn some self-help and limited speech. These children often display poor motor skills. At the elementary level, they can learn simple health habits and often benefit from habit training skills. They are also able to learn how to talk and learn to communicate. By adolescence, they are able to develop some self-protection skills, skills in a controlled environment, and contribute partially to self-care.

A wide variety of medical and environmental conditions can cause Intellectual Disability. In some cases Intellectual Disability may be genetic, some symptoms are present before or at the time of conception, others occur during pregnancy, during birth, or after birth. We know that a problem occurs with the development of the brain. Doctors can identify a specific cause in only about one-third of people with mild Intellectual Disability and two-thirds of people with moderate to profound Intellectual Disability, (Sulkes, 2009).

In most cases, the symptoms can be detected at birth or shortly thereafter, showing abnormalities to the baby. These abnormalities are generally physical and neurological. There may be unusual face features, a head that is too large or too small, or deformities to the hands and feet. Others may look like a normal baby, but have signs of serious illness like seizures, lethargy, vomiting, abnormal urine odor, and failure to feed and grow normally, (Sulkes, 2009). Many children with...
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