Mental Retardation

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Intellectual disability (ID), once called mental retardation, is characterized by below-average intelligence or mental ability and a lack of skills necessary for day-to-day living. People with intellectual disabilities can and do learn new skills, but they learn them more slowly. There are varying degrees of intellectual disability, from mild to profound.

What is intellectual disability?

Someone with intellectual disability has limitations in two areas. These areas are:

Intellectual functioning. Also known as IQ, this refers to a person’s ability to learn, reason, make decisions, and solve problems. Adaptive behaviors. These are skills necessary for day-to-day life, such as being able to communicate effectively, interact with others, and take care of oneself. IQ (intelligence quotient) is measured by an IQ test. The average IQ is 100. A person is considered intellectually disabled if he or she has an IQ of less than 70 to 75.

To measure a child’s adaptive behaviors, a specialist will observe the child’s skills and compare them to other children of the same age. Things that may be observed include how well the child can feed or dress himself or herself; how well the child is able to communicate with and understand others; and how the child interacts with family, friends, and other children of the same age.

Intellectual disability is thought to affect about 1% of the population. Of those affected, 85% have mild intellectual disability. This means they are just a little slower than average to learn new information or skills.With the right support, most will be able to live independently as adults.
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