What are Intellectual Disabilities?

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What are Intellectual Disabilities?

All human beings have different levels of intelligence. The mental quality of human beings is defined by their capabilities to perceive and assimilate from their experiences. The cognitive ability of every individual decides his ability to adapt to new situations, grasp concepts, and use that knowledge to deal with day-to-day tasks. However, some people face a certain lack of cognitive ability causing them to meet specific challenges in life. This is called Intellectual Disability. 

In this article, you will learn in detail what intellectual disability means and how it affects an  individual's everyday life. Let’s begin!

What do You Mean by Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability refers to a mental condition wherein a person’s cognitive abilities, such as learning, logical reasoning, memory and concentration, get hindered. Such a condition affects the day-to-day functioning of the brain and sometimes also impacts the control and coordination of different body organs.

What are the Symptoms of Intellectual Disabilities?

There are various apparent signs of a possible intellectual disability. Children with some or the other form of intellectual disability may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • They may sit up, crawl, or learn to walk later than other children.
  • The child may have speech-related issues, so s/he may have trouble speaking. Besides, such a child may learn to talk too late.
  • They may find it hard to remember concepts or other things due to cognitive issues. As a result, they may also find it challenging to solve problems.
  • They may find it difficult to understand social rules and etiquette.
  • Such children may have problems seeing the impact of their actions, which is called conduct disorder. Some instances include hyperactivity, disobeying parents, bullying or sexual abuse, and a tendency to use cigarettes or drugs at an early age.

Types Of Intellectual Disabilities?

Here are some types of intellectual disabilities:

1. Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a very complex neurological disorder related to brain development that impacts the way a person interacts, responds, and communicates with others. A person with Autism does not effectively communicate with people and does not respond to the communication. Often, people with this disorder tend to show compulsive behaviour with repetitive actions or words. However, in some cases, people affected by Autism tend to have a stronger imagination and observation than ordinary people.

2. Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused due to an extra set of chromosome 21. A person affected by this condition shows delayed development and a distinct facial appearance. Such a person may have a flattened face with a short neck, small ears, and sometimes a tongue sticking out of the mouth. Due to a distinct set of cognitive and physical symptoms, adults with this condition have a mental age of an 8 to 9-year-old child but emotional and social awareness stronger than ordinary people.

3. Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X is a genetic condition caused by variations in a specific gene in the brain known as ‘Fragile X Messenger Ribonucleoprotein 1’ (FMR1). This genetic disorder affects a person’s behavioural and cognitive development. People with this condition usually have issues with mental peace, and they face anxiety or hyperactivity. In some cases, seizures and anxiety attacks may also occur. Mood swings and seizures can be effectively treated using therapy and medicine.

4. Dyslexia

Commonly known as the reading disorder, dyslexia is a cognitive disorder that involves difficulty reading and recognising letters and/or numbers (i.e. decoding), often coupled with difficulty in identifying pronunciation. Dyslexia is generally caused due to possible inheritance of genes related to this disorder. Dyslexia affects certain key cognitive areas of the brain that are involved in processing and decoding language. It may also be caused by premature birth, low birth weight, or even exposure to certain unhealthy food substances during gestation, like alcohol or tobacco.

5. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

This disease affects a child in the fetal stage due to exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. This disease causes multiple physical and mental developmental issues in the child. Children with this syndrome exhibit hyperactivity, compulsive behaviour, poor memory, and vision and hearing defects. This syndrome can also lead to other issues like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

6. Other Intellectual Disabilities

Numerous other intellectual disabilities affect the physical and/or mental development of children. While some have established factors, others are still unknown or have been undergoing thorough research.

How is an Intellectual Disability Diagnosed?

Medical science has a proper mechanism for judging a person's intellectual functioning. Here’s how an intellectual disability is detected:

  • The unit of intellectual functioning is the Intelligence Quotient or IQ. The IQ is measured individually using psychometrically sound, comprehensive intelligence tests. 
  • Though a full-scale IQ test score is no longer needed for diagnosis, standardised tests are done for the same. The normal range of IQ is 90-110. 
  • Accordingly, a full-scale IQ score from 70 to 75 indicates a significant lack of intellectual functioning and hints at a possible intellectual disability.

What is an intellectual Impairment?

It is essential to know that a full-scale IQ score does not establish definite possibilities of an intellectual impairment, which is more appropriately defined as the brain's lack of proper cognitive functioning.

The IQ score assesses a person’s generic mental abilities, like problem-solving skills. There are other subtests as well that can show different scores. Hence, a full-scale IQ score may not accurately describe overall intellectual functioning. Doctors use thorough clinical judgment processes to interpret intellectual functioning and detect impairment.

How to Deal with People with Intellectual Disabilities?

The first thing to understand is people with intellectual disabilities should not be considered as disabled, though their mental condition is categorised as a ‘disability’. Such people should be rather suitably considered as ‘differently-abled’, and in India, we call them ‘Divyangjan’. 

Hence, it is essential for everyone to properly learn how to communicate with differently-abled people with respect, compassion, and patience. Here are a few tips regarding a healthy conversation with the differently-abled people:

  • Do not address them as kids: Even if they are growing up, calling them kids can make them feel as if their mental abilities are being judged.
  • Do not be loud with them: Due to their different cognitive abilities, people with intellectual disabilities respond differently, but that doesn’t mean they hear louder than others. Talking loud can even make them feel uncomfortable. Hence, you should be soft-spoken and polite with gifted people.
  • Be friendly rather than sympathetic: Very importantly, differently-abled people do not like condolences. Sympathising or talking low to them makes them feel inferior. Instead, you should be with them like peers. Gifted people love joking, laughing out loud and accepting challenges.  
  • Try to know their thoughts and feelings: Whenever you get time to talk to them, asking them their opinion on any issue is better. Don’t try to put your words into their mouth; instead, listen patiently to their reply. This way, you can better know their perception.
  • Always ask them before helping: It is better to ask them if they need a favour before directly offering them support and expecting that they always need your help.

What to do if Your Child may have an Intellectual Disability?

If you feel your child is  intellectually  disable you should consult your child’s specialist. In case your doctor finds any possibility of an intellectual impairment, s/he will refer your child to a developmental paediatrician or a psychiatrist. 

However, if you seek more information regarding specialised doctors and the treatment of intellectual disabilities in your area, contact the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities or “Divyangjan” NIEPID.

However, it is equally important for parents to know what a mild intellectual disability is. If there’s a slight deficit  in intellectual functioning related to theoretical thinking, it is called mild intellectual disability, which generally improves with age.

Secure your Child’s Future with Adequate Health Coverage

It is a well-known fact that healthcare expenses have risen exorbitantly with inflation. In such a situation, specialised medical care for a differently-abled child can engulf a sizeable chunk of your savings. Hence, getting adequate health coverage for your family is always advisable. In case of any sort of medical emergency, a health insurance plan can be of great help in covering your medical costs. Thankfully, some reliable health insurers, such as Care Health Insurance, offer health insurance plans tailored to your family’s healthcare needs.

So, don't wait until the eleventh hour to get comprehensive health insurance from Care Health Insurance.

Disclaimer: The above information is for reference purposes only. Kindly consult your general physician for verified medical advice. The health insurance benefits are subject to policy terms and conditions. Refer to your policy documents for more information.

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