The Types of Intellectual Disabilities

Intellectual disability is a widely used term in America today. There are over 6.5 million people in the United States alone who are affected by intellectual disabilities, and there are many different forms of them. There are certain common similarities between one intellectual disability and the next, of course, but one thing to understand about these disabilities is that no two cases are exactly the same. The easiest way to figure out the difference is to understand the different disorders and syndromes that are considered to be intellectual disabilities.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder- A complex developmental and neurological disorder.
    • Autism has been estimated to occur in over 36,500 of every 4 million babies born each year.
    •  Autism is also known as a developmental disability because it directly affects the development.
    • People who are autistic generally have difficulty interacting with other people in social situations, have issues communicating, display repetitive behaviors, and focus on a restricted amount of interests.
    • Autism can last throughout a person’s entire life.
  • Down syndrome- A chromosomal disorder caused by too many or too few chromosomes, specifically having an extra part or an extra copy of chromosome 21.
    • Occurs in each and every economic and ethnic group.
    • The most frequently occurring chromosomal cause of mild to moderate intellectual disability.
    • The severity of intellectual disability in people with Down syndrome varies greatly.
    • Children with Down syndrome may reach developmental milestones later than children without.
  • Fragile X Syndrome- A genetic disorder that effects development, especially behavior and the ability to learn.
    • Can affect physical appearance and communication skills.
    • May cause sensitivity to noise and light.
    • Fragile X is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability.
    • May not have noticeable symptoms.
    • May have symptoms that are serious, ranging from learning disabilities to cognitive behavioral problems.

Intellectual disabilities have many types. Some types affect the person’s intellectual functionality. This has to do with their I.Q., the ability to problem solve, make decisions, see reason, and their overall ability to learn new things.

Another type of intellectual disability affects a person’s adaptive behavior. This part of the disability will make it very difficult to adapt to a changing environment. The person affected by this intellectual disability may have difficulty displaying the skills necessary to be independent in everyday life. Most people who have intellectual disabilities will have very significant limitations in at least two areas of adaptive behavior.

Learning the symptoms of different intellectual disabilities can help you recognize them early on. Getting help for these disabilities as early as possible will greatly increase a child’s chances of overcoming some of the more debilitating aspects of their symptoms.  There may not be a cure-all for intellectual disabilities, but there is definitely help out there.