Intellectual disability occurs when a child under the age of 18 has an IQ of 65-75 or below and has impairment in the skills necessary for daily living such as problem solving skills, motor skills, reasoning, planning, abstract thinking, academic learning, judgement, ability to learn from past experiences, language skills,social milestones, self-help skills, and the ability to adapt to new situations. As a result, these children will learn and develop more slowly than their peers.
On going support to help these individuals achieve functioning in the activities of daily life is necessary. Knowing and using the supports available to help your child and your family is one of the first positive steps you can take.
Some of the signs that may indicate the presence of an intellectual disability include the following skills seen at various times during childhood development:
- sitting up, crawling, or walking later than other children at approximately the same age.
- speech and language delays documented by learning to talk late (2 years old or after) or having trouble speaking
- having a hard time remembering things
- difficulty understanding how to interact with others
- lack of understanding the social rules of their culture
- difficulty with learning the relationship between cause and effect
- logical thought process and problem solving is impaired
How do I find out if my child has an Intellectual Disability?
Contacting your child’s doctor is your first step. Your doctor will most likely refer you to a mental health professional; and work together with this person, to complete an in-depth evaluation of your child. Two major pieces of this evaluation will indicate if you child has an intellectual disability. These are your child’s IQ (ability to learn, think, solve problems, and ways in which they process their world), and your child’s daily living skills.
An average IQ is 100. Intellectual disabilities are seen when IQ scores fall in the 65-75 range and below. The severity of impairment in daily functioning varies from person to person. Despite impairment ranges from profound to borderline, the focus needs to remain on interventions and daily care that the individual needs.
What treatments can help my child who has an intellectual disability?
The primary goal of treatment is to help your child develop to the greatest extent possible. Treatment interventions may begin while your child is still an infant. Early interventions that are consistently delivered will provide your child with the best opportunities for growth and normal functioning.
1. Call your child’s doctor immediately if you have any concerns about your child’s development, if you think that your child’s motor or language skills are not developing normally, or if your child has any existing disabilities that need attention.
2. Speak with a child development specialist to evaluate your child for related and/or conditions that commonly exist along side intellectual disabilities. These could include ADHD, sensory needs, and/or anxiety. Disabilities in addition to an intellectual disability must also be treated.
3. Behavior intervention techniques are important. One example includes providing positive rewards for positive behavior. Having a solid plan in place with your child will help them to feel successful when they earn their reward. This can slowly help to foster intellectual growth of learning that actions have positive and negative consequences associated with them.
4. Ensure that your child’s needs are met in all areas of the day. This includes:
- Supports within your child’s classroom at school
- Consultants who work with teachers and others working with your child in order to develop and implement consistent plans
- An accurate Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
- Appropriate services that will maximize learning and introduce and build upon adaptive skills (Occupation Therapy, Physical Therapy, Counseling, and Speech and Language services)
- Time spent within a general education setting (with non-disabled peers) as appropriate.
- Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and service providers with any question that you may have.
5. Ensure that daily living skills are implemented in all areas of the day including home, school, family members’ homes, babysitters’ homes and so on. Some important examples include self-care, communicating appropriately with others, and life skills needed for transition planning for when your child graduates from high school. Repeated modeling, practice, and use of visuals (pictures) to describe these skills are the best ways to teach your child.
6. Give breaks to your child when teaching something new and/or break tasks into small steps. Giving one direction at a time gives your child a chance to process your request and to follow-through on it. Do this until the task is complete. This is a great way to teach a child a skill and to help them to feel successful. As you work with your child, give your praise and opinions on how they are doing. Always show patience and encouragement with your child – remember that they have a lifetime to learn skills.
7. Identify your child’s abilities and interests. Use these as a foundation for learning new skills and for providing positive reinforcement.
8. Gather information and supports from others. A great place to start is the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. Their website is http://www.nichcy.org. Here you will find more information on intellectual disabilities along with many options for support.