Intellectual learning disabilities

What is Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual Disabilities

There are many kinds of intellectual disabilities—and many causes. Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability.

What Is an Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability (or ID) is a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functioning and skills, including communication, social and self-care skills. These limitations can cause a child to develop and learn more slowly or differently than a typically developing child. Intellectual disability can happen any time before a child turns 18 years old, even before birth.

Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability.

According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, an individual has intellectual disability if he or she meets three criteria:

  1. IQ is below 70-75
  2. There are significant limitations in two or more adaptive areas (skills that are needed to live, work, and play in the community, such as communication or self-care)
  3. The condition manifests itself before the age of 18

How Does an Intellectual Disability Happen?

Intellectual disability—formerly known as mental retardation—can be caused by injury, disease, or a problem in the brain. For many children, the cause of their intellectual disability is unknown.

Some causes of intellectual disability—such as Down syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, birth defects, and infections—can happen before birth. Some happen while a baby is being born or soon after birth.

Other causes of intellectual disability do not occur until a child is older; these might include severe head injury, infections or stroke.

What Are the Most Common Causes?

The most common causes of intellectual disabilities are:

Genetic conditions. Sometimes an intellectual disability is caused by abnormal genes inherited from parents, errors when genes combine, or other reasons. Examples of genetic conditions are Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and phenylketonuria (PKU).

Complications during pregnancy. An intellectual disability can result when the baby does not develop inside the mother properly. For example, there may be a problem with the way the baby’s cells divide. A woman who drinks alcohol or gets an infection like rubella during pregnancy may also have a baby with an intellectual disability.

Problems during birth. If there are complications during labor and birth, such as a baby not getting enough oxygen, he or she may have an intellectual disability.

Diseases or toxic exposure. Diseases like whooping cough, the measles, or meningitis can cause intellectual disabilities. They can also be caused by extreme malnutrition, not getting appropriate medical care, or by being exposed to poisons like lead or mercury.

We know that intellectual disability is not contagious: you can’t catch an intellectual disability from anyone else. We also know it’s not a type of mental illness, like depression. There are no cures for intellectual disability. However, children with intellectual disabilities can learn to do many things. They may just need take more time or learn differently than other children.

How Common Are Intellectual Disabilities?

Approximately 6. 5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability. Approximately 1 – 3 percent of the global population has an intellectual disability—as many as 200 million people.

Intellectual disability is significantly more common in low-income countries—16.41 in every 1,000 people. Disabilities overall are more common in low-income countries.

The United Nations Development Program estimates that 80 percent of all people with disabilities live in low-income countries. While people with disabilities represent approximately one in 10 people worldwide, they are one in every five of the world’s poorest people.

Sources: American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities; the United Nations Development Program; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learning vs.

Intellectual Disability Treatment Options

Parents who understand the key difference between learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities can find the best possible treatment for their child.

As children with disabilities develop, they can be lumped into a single category by well-meaning caregivers and teachers. This mistake is particularly common with learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities.

Children with both kinds of disabilities can thrive academically and socially, especially when the adults in their lives accommodate their unique needs. The following information will help you understand the difference between a learning disability and an intellectual disability. You can then use this knowledge to find the right learning or intellectual disability treatment options in Little Rock for your family.

What Is a Learning Disability?

A learning disability affects a child’s ability to develop skills without affecting their overall intellectual capabilities. Children who are diagnosed with learning disabilities may have trouble reading, writing, or speaking. For example, dyslexia is a learning disability that affects a kid’s ability to read letters and numbers, while dyscalculia affects their ability to understand math problems. Learning disabilities come in many different forms and levels of severity. As a result, diagnoses and treatments for learning disabilities will be different for each child.

What Is an Intellectual Disability?

An intellectual disability affects a child’s intellectual capabilities. For example, an autism spectrum disorder can impair skills associated with social interaction, as well as verbal and nonverbal communication. As a result of an intellectual disability’s effect on overall mental functioning, it can create the same learning obstacles experienced by a kid who has a learning disability. Much like learning disabilities, diagnoses and treatment options for intellectual disabilities can vary based on the individual.

How Do Treatments Differ?

The key difference between a learning disability and an intellectual disability is the fact that learning disabilities do not affect a child’s intellectual capabilities. Instead, they affect the ways a child processes information. If a kid has been diagnosed with a learning disability, they may be able to overcome their obstacles by adapting their learning process and anticipating challenges. Diagnosis can give children, parents, and teachers a clear path toward educational goals through coping mechanisms and other adjustments.

Because intellectual disabilities affect a child’s overall intellectual capacities, they may require treatment that addresses more than just learning goals. While some intellectual skills may be learned over time, other social or self-care skills may pose lifelong challenges for kids with intellectual disabilities. They may continue to need assistance as adults, but it is possible to work toward independence through in-home or community-based care options in Little Rock. Regardless of whether your child has a learning disability or an intellectual disability, patience and persistence can lead to progress as your child explores the world and their place in it.

If you are interested in intellectual disability treatments in Little Rock, contact Integrity Inc. at 501-406-0442. For over 20 years, Integrity has been providing support services for families just like yours.

Categorized: Habilitation

Education of children with intellectual disabilities

Kristina Nikolaeva, director of a special (correctional) general education school No. 6 Leninsk-Kuznetsky Kemerovo region.

How can you tell if your child needs special (remedial) education? This is a difficult and emotionally difficult step for many parents, because the path to special education always begins in the office of a psychiatrist.

Much depends on the diagnosis

In case of severe developmental disorders, the family already knows the child's diagnosis by the school age and is ready to choose a special educational route. And if the baby has a mild mental retardation, relatives may not know about the diagnosis until they encounter serious difficulties in primary secondary school. Then, due to poor progress, the school psychological, medical and pedagogical commission (PMPC), which is in every educational organization, sends the child for an additional medical examination.

It is important to remember that without the consent of the parents, the school does not have the right to leave the child for a second year of study, transfer to another educational institution, or send them for medical examinations. Parents have the right to refuse examination of their child by a psychiatrist, from following the recommendations of the PMPK, from any changes in the educational route, if they are sure that it will be better for the child. And here it is very important to correctly explain to parents the meaning of correctional education.

What is the meaning of special education

Correctional education is the optimal ratio of the educational conditions of the organization (program, specialists, mode of study, etc. ) and the educational needs of the child.

Education will be successful only when all participants, and this is the student himself, his parents (legal representatives) and the educational institution, act in concert, with an understanding of the common goal - to receive education at the level that the child is capable of.

Special education reveals the strengths of mental activity, and the educational process is based on the search for opportunities to compensate for developmental deficits through the safe processes of activity. No wonder one of the mottos of modern correctional education sounds like "A child, not a diagnosis." In the meantime, parents are not ready to realize all the features of their child's development, there is no point in coming to a correctional school. Otherwise, it will be a struggle with the diagnosis, and not the development of the child.

Sometimes conditions similar to mental retardation and requiring a special educational route develop by adolescence and later. For example, dementia with organic damage to the central nervous system against the background of epilepsy, viral diseases, mechanical damage (trauma, traffic accidents, etc.). Then a person enters the system of correctional education immediately in middle or high school.

The choice is up to the parents

A child with mental retardation has the right to study in a special (correctional) general education organization for children with intellectual disabilities (sometimes parents out of habit call them "schools of the eighth type" or "auxiliary schools", but such definitions have not been used for a long time ) or in any educational organization at the place of registration.

What the law says

Special education in Russia is regulated by the Federal State Educational Standards (FSES). There is a separate GEF for students with mental retardation, it has been in force since September 1, 2016. This document describes the opportunities for students.

There are various educational programs for the education of a child with intellectual disabilities. In the Federal State Educational Standard for students with mental retardation, they are described as "option 1" and "option 2". The options differ in terms of mastering the educational program (from 9up to 13 years of study) and content of subjects. For each child, the variant is determined by the PMPK and depends on the diagnosis and individual characteristics.

As a general rule, option 1 is recommended for children with mild mental retardation, involves 9 years of education, a class of 12 students. At the end of the 9th grade, final certification is carried out in the form of exams in basic subjects and labor training.

Option 2 is recommended for children with moderate, severe and profound mental retardation, education is spread over 13 years. There are 5 students in the class. A special individual development program (SIPR) is compiled annually for each child. The class teacher, speech therapist teacher, educational psychologist, adaptive physical education teacher and other specialists take part in the preparation of this program, it also takes into account the content of the individual rehabilitation and habilitation program if the child has a disability. There is no final certification at the end of training, there are individual diagnostic cards that are filled in by school specialists for each child with a description of the quantitative and qualitative changes in his development.

The program of both option 1 and option 2 for students with mental retardation includes remedial courses - individual lessons or subgroup classes with a speech therapist teacher, speech pathologist, alternative communication specialist, sensory development specialist, adaptive physical education specialist. This is the part of the program that a general education school cannot provide in a quality manner. For this reason, defectologists do not recommend leaving children with mental retardation in a public school and trying to create conditions for learning there.

The second reason is a significant difference in the content of the programs of mass and correctional schools, and this difference increases exponentially as students grow older.

Forms of education


Separately, it is necessary to discuss the forms of education. There can also be several of them, for example, a class-lesson form - when a child attends classes at school. This is how most children in our country learn.


There are cases when a child has developmental features that do not allow him to be in school: epilepsy with frequent extended attacks, cerebral palsy with serious impairment of self-care skills, obvious aggressive behavior. Then home-based learning is an effective way to organize training. The teacher comes to the child's home and teaches the learning material individually.

Many parents have a negative attitude towards home schooling, as they believe that it isolates the child at home and has a bad effect on socialization. However, the socialization of the child occurs not only at school, but in any situation related to interaction with peers. And if parents organize this interaction outside the school (clubs, sections, communication in the yard, on the playground, in rehabilitation centers), socialization will not suffer.

Most often, by agreement with the educational organization, the main subjects are taken home, and the child attends extracurricular activities and correctional courses together with the whole class. But it depends on the health of the student.

Home education is issued only on the basis of the conclusion of the medical commission. Doctors have a list of certain diseases for which home training is recommended. Just at the request of a teacher or parent, without compelling medical reasons, home schooling cannot be arranged. The conclusion of the medical commission is issued for one academic year. Before each school year, parents need to contact doctors in order to arrange home-based education. As soon as the medical indications change, the child returns to the classroom.

Distance education

With intact intelligence and serious difficulties in movement (cerebral palsy), it is sometimes more convenient to arrange a distance learning form. The child is provided with special equipment and software at home, and the educational process takes place without the direct presence of a teacher, through modern communication channels.

During the period of self-isolation, we all encountered distance learning. It has supporters and obvious opponents, but in some cases this is the only possible way to get a quality education.

For intellectual disabilities, distance learning is less effective than home learning. At least for now. Now the professional community believes that the subject-activity approach is implemented by the teacher more productively in direct communication with the child - one on one or in the classroom, than when using remote methods. But sometimes external circumstances leave us no choice and both students and teachers have to adapt.

The main thing is teamwork

GEF for children with mental retardation provides ample opportunity to build an individual educational route for each child, regardless of the severity of the impairment. And the most important condition for successful learning is the "teamwork" of the family and specialists, the unity of understanding the characteristics of the child, his strengths and weaknesses, the unity of educational approaches - when parents at home use the same methods and techniques of work as the teacher in the classroom.

Interviewed by Anna Demina

Photo: Collection/iStock

Education program for children with mild mental retardation - Dobrobut Clinic


Dobrobut Medical Library

Publication date: 2020-08-17

Adapted general education program (AEP) for children with mental retardation

Mental retardation (oligophrenia, dementia) is a general mental disorder characterized by a significant decrease in intellectual activity, adaptive skills and underdevelopment of the emotional and volitional sphere. The condition is defined by an IQ score of less than 70, as well as behavioral problems that affect daily life. Correctional programs for children with mental retardation are based on the degree of mental retardation. Separate materials have been developed for teaching children with mild, moderate and severe mental retardation.

Mental retardation affects about 2-3% of the population, of which 75-90% have mild mental retardation. Idiopathic cases arising from an unknown cause account for 30-50%, 25% are caused by a genetic disorder, about 5% are hereditary.

Types and degrees of a child's mental retardation

Characteristics of a child's mental retardation - a persistent impairment of cognitive activity due to organic damage to the brain. Mentally retarded children are usually divided into oligophrenics and non-oligophrenics. In the latter, mental retardation occurs in a later period of life and is the result of organic diseases or brain injuries (meningoencephalitis, concussions, bruises, etc.).

The following degrees of oligophrenia are distinguished:

  • mild (debility) - IQ of the child is 50-60. There are no noticeable behavioral deviations in such children. Learning is difficult due to reduced ability to concentrate and distracted attention;
  • moderate (unsharply expressed imbecility) - IQ of the child is 35-49. Such children can be taught to serve themselves on their own, write, read, count, but they need constant care and control. Imbeciles have undeveloped thinking, reduced attention, defective speech, impaired motor skills;
  • severe (pronounced imbecility) - the IQ of the child is 20-34. Such children have an extremely weak development of speech, they are able to learn only simple self-service techniques;
  • deep (idiocy) - the IQ of the child is below 20. The condition is characterized by an almost complete absence of thinking and speech. The child is almost unable to move independently.

Assessing the type and extent of a child's mental retardation can be difficult due to comorbidities such as deaf-muteness, blindness. In such cases, a diagnosis of "other forms of mental retardation" is made.

There are the following main types of mental retardation:

  • hereditary forms;
  • mental retardation in chromosomal diseases;
  • mixed in etiology;
  • due to exogenous factors.

Teaching children with mild mental retardation

Mentally retarded children have an underdevelopment of cognitive interests, expressed in the fact that they are less than their peers feel the need for knowledge. Definitions of the variant of the adapted general education program (AEP) for children with mental retardation are carried out taking into account the recommendations of the psychological, medical and pedagogical commission.

A differentiated approach to the construction of AOEP for students with mild mental retardation involves taking into account their different opportunities for mastering the educational program. This attitude allows you to realize the individual potential of the development of the child. When teaching children with mild mental retardation, it should be borne in mind that students can confuse graphically similar numbers and letters that sound similar to words. Teachers should take into account the difficulties in the distribution of attention, slow switching, the inability to focus on any one type of activity of children diagnosed with mental retardation.

Classes in schools for students with mental retardation are carried out according to adapted educational programs, taking into account their psychophysical capabilities. The name of the subjects and the number of hours allocated for their study is determined by the curriculum in accordance with the order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

GEF for children with mental retardation

The standard regulates relations in the field of education of groups of students with mild, moderate, severe and profound mental retardation, as well as severe and multiple developmental disabilities. More information about the document can be found on our website

GEF for children with mild mental retardation provides for the allocation of a propaedeutic period that ensures the continuity of preschool and school stages, mastering various types and means of communication, training programs for skilled workers and employees. The educational standard focuses on psychological support, which improves the student's interaction with teachers and other students.

The curriculum for children with moderate mental retardation provides for the individualization of learning and the formation of self-service skills. Such children need step-by-step training, constant supervision (care). Children with severe mental retardation need help in the formation of communicative functions. Severe oligophrenia determines the need for classes in the development of speech, motor functions, large and fine motor skills.

SIPR for children with severe mental retardation provides training at home or in specialized medical institutions. The program defines comprehensive support for children with multiple developmental disabilities, including their education and cooperation with parents raising a child with severe disabilities.

Related services:
Pediatric consultation
Speech therapy

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