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Intellectual and development disabilities and child development

One of the most mentioned disabilities is Intellectual related disabilities formerly referred to as mental retardation. Virtually everyone knows a family with a member affected by this disability as well as some of the issues involved with the parenting of such a child. In 2013, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), formerly known as the American Association on Mental Retardation, is the most recognized and leading professional organization concerned with research, study, treatment, definition and treatment of persons with intellectually related disabilities. The AAIDD continues to be the leader and guiding entity with regards to intellectual disabilities in the United States.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is defined as substantial limitations in age appropriate intellectual and adaptive behavior of the affected person. Intelligence is one’s ability to place and retain information into their short and long term memories structures in the brain. The assessment of a person’s intelligence is based on a battery of intelligence tests and observations of the intellectual associated behaviors. The most utilized tests/assessments are: the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test; Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Revised (WISC-R) and the Woodcock-Johnson Intelligence Scale. Smart, on the other hand, is one’s ability to recall learned information from their short and long term memories to be utilized in personal and social decision making situations.

Adaptive behavior is the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that people must learn in order to function in their daily lives. The Diagnosis Adaptive Behavior Scale (DABS) measures these three domains:
• Conceptual skills: literacy; self-direction; and concepts of number, money, and time
• Social skills: interpersonal skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, gullibility, naïveté (i.e., wariness), social problem solving, following rules, obeying laws, and avoiding being victimized
• Practical skills: activities of daily living (personal care), occupational skills, use of money, safety, health care, travel/transportation, schedules/routines, and use of the telephone
Designed for use with individuals from 4 to 21 years old, DABS provides precise diagnostic information around the cutoff point where an individual is deemed to have “significant limitations” in adaptive behavior. The presence of such limitations is one of the measures of intellectual disability (Source: American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 2013).
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are disabilities that is seldom a time limited condition. That is, once a person has the disability it is retained for life. The affected person will demonstrate slower as well as delay in their development throughout their lives. Though persons with an intellectual disability demonstrate limitations does not meant they cannot live meaningful, productive lives. Over the past 40 years or so, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been able to make tremendous advance in adaptive skills. Some to the point that they function independently no longer requiring significant assistance. These persons are no longer considered disable.

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have traditional been classified by the degree or level of their intellectual findings based on the results of two or more intelligence tests as well as their observed adaptive functioning. It is estimated that roughly three (3) percent of the population of the United States has an intellectual and developmental disability out of a population of approximately 317 million persons. This translates to approximately 9.6 million persons with an intellectual and developmental disability of 2.26million are children age 0 through 17.

Though the description of the disability has been changed, classification has not. Persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities are classified by the degree or level of their intellectual and adaptive findings and functioning in one of the four categories:

Intelligence Test Scores Results
Mild Disability 55 to 70 Intelligence Quotient Score
Moderate Disability 40 to 55 Intelligence Quotient Score
Severe Disability 25 to 40 Intelligence Quotient Score
Profound Disability 25 and below Intelligence Quotient Score
Sources: American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), 2013
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), American Psychiatric Association, 2013

For the most part, 85% of persons with an intellectual disability will exhibit a mild (educable) form. These individuals are usually not identified until they are enrolled in preschool or elementary school. Approximately 10% are identified as moderate (trainable). Roughly 3% as severe and less than 1% as profound.

What parents with an intellectually and developmentally disabled child should understand is that your child can live meaningful, productive lives in spite of their disability and can be a blessing to you as well!