Unexplained (this largest category is for unexplained occurrences of intellectual disability)
As a family, you may suspect your child has an intellectual disability when your child has any of the following:
Lack of or slow development of motor skills, language skills, and self-help skills, especially when compared to peers
Failure to grow intellectually or continued infant-like berhavior
Lack of curiosity
Problems keeping up in school
Failure to adapt (adjust to new situations)
Difficulty understanding and following social rules
Signs of intellectual disability can range from mild to severe.
Signs and tests
Developmental tests are often used to assess the child:
Abnormal Denver developmental screening test
Adaptive Behavior score below average
Development way below that of peers
Intelligence quotient (IQ) score below 70 on a standardized IQ test
Goal of treatment is to develop the person's potential to the fullest. Special education and training may begin as early as infancy. This includes social skills to help the person function as normally as possible.
It is important for a specialist to evaluate the person for other physical and mental health problems. Persons with intellectual disability are often helped with behavioral counseling.
Discuss your child’s treatment and support options with your health care provider or social worker so that you can help your child reach his or her full potential.
Outcome depends on:
Severity and cause of the intellectual disability
Treatment and therapies
Many people lead productive lives and learn to function on their own. Others need a structured environment to be most successful.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
You have any concerns about your child's development
You notice that your child's motor or language skills are not developing normally
Your child has other disorders that need treatment
Genetic: Genetic counseling and screening during pregnancy can help parents understand risks and make plans and decisions.
Social: Nutrition programs can reduce disability associated with malnutrition. Early intervention in situations involving abuse and poverty will also help.
Toxic: Preventing exposure to lead, mercury, and other toxins reduces the risk of disability. Teaching women about the risks of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy can also help reduce risk.
Infectious diseases: Certain infections can lead to intellectual disability. Preventing these diseases reduces the risk. For example, rubella syndrome can be prevented through vaccination. Avoiding exposure to cat feces that can cause toxoplasmosis during pregnancy helps reduce disability from this infection.
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities | nichcy.org
Shapiro BK, Batshaw ML. Intellectual disability. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 33.
A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team. Previously reviewed by Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine (5/1/2011). Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.