Intellectual Disability, sometimes called mental retardation, refers to persons with limitations or impairments in intellectual and adaptive functioning.  The intellectual deficits refer to limits in cognitive functioning and critical thought, while the adaptive functioning limitations are marked by failure to engage in behavioral changes when certain behaviors are unconstructive or disruptive.


  • IQ below 70
  • Poor problem solving ability
  • Limits to logical thinking
  • Late development of age appropriate abilities (crawling, walking, speaking)
  • Poor memory
  • Failure to change behavior with consequences


Intellectual disability is typically thought to be caused by genetic predisposition, with Down Syndrome being a notable example.  Substances can cause developmental problems during pregnancy that result in intellectual disability, like drugs, alcohol, and poor nutrition.  Head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and severe infections can also cause developmental failures.


Once an intellectual disability is diagnosed there is little that can reverse it.  There are however, interventions that work with the child to lead them to the best possible outcomes.  Therapists can work with schools to write a plan for the patient that takes their individual needs into account.  Raising a child with an intellectual disability is known to cause significant stress to parents and family members, so personal therapy for the primary caregivers is recommended.

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