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.

Signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome In Infants

During pregnancy if you drink alcohol this could have extremely harmful effects on your infant. Alcohol very easily crosses the placenta barrier and enters the fetus. You would never give a child or infant alcohol and especially, you would never want a developing fetus to come into contact with alcohol. This could affect development in a number of ways and even cause birth defects. It is important to remember that there really is no safe level of alcohol that you can consume during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a real risk and some signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in infants include:

In Utero

While the child is still in the mother’s womb a number of problems can occur if alcohol is consumed. This can include stunted fetal growth, heart defects and physical feature issues such as narrowed eyes, small eyes, small head, small jaw, thin upper lip and more.

Post Birth

After a child has been born there may be some other problems that surface including developmental delays in the areas of speech, movement, thought, social skills, etc. The infant may also have very poor muscle tone and poor muscle control. More often than not, the child grows up to have a much lower IQ than your average child of that age group. Joints can be misshapen and misplaced on the child; causing a number of skeletal issues and pain.


In order to determine if there is a problem, a doctor will look at a number of signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in infants to officially diagnose a condition. If it is suspected that a mother who is in labor or has just given birth is potentially intoxicated, medical personnel may request that the mother have her blood alcohol level tested. Brain scans on the baby such as a CT or MRI, can also give some insight when signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in infants is suspected. If the child is still inside the mother’s womb then a pregnancy ultrasound may be able to diagnose a number of problems associated with this condition. While tests are in place to diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome and its related conditions, nobody wants to be in the place of having to put their child through unnecessary testing.

Obviously, drinking to excess when pregnant is extremely dangerous to both the mother and the baby. So, leave the wine bottle opener in the drawer and abstain from drinking when out at restaurants. Because, even the smallest amount of alcohol can be harmful. The period of time where alcohol is the most dangerous is during the first trimester of pregnancy (months one through three). Get more information here.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a broad term for different disorders that are connect to the development of the brain. These disorders have certain characteristics such as:

  • Difficulties in social interaction
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive behaviors

Doctors first categorized Autism characteristics into multiple subtypes that covered autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Then in May of 2013 the disorders where merged together under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

One of the classic signs of Autism is impaired social interaction. A baby can be unresponsive to people or may focus solely on one particular item for long periods of time. They may seem to be developing normally except when it comes to social interactions.

The child will then fail to respond to their name and will generally avoid eye contact. They have a hard time figuring out what people are thinking or feeling because they lack the understanding that comes with voice tones or facial expressions. They may also lack empathy.

Some of the early symptoms that doctors and parents can look for in a child that they suspect has ASD are:

  • The child does not babble by age 1
  • The child does not speak in single word from by 16 months or in two word phrases by age 2
  • The child does not respond to their name
  • The child has a loss in language
  • The child has poor eye contact
  • The child does not smile

Some of the later clues that a child has autism are:

  • The child has a difficult time making friends
  • The child struggles to make or keep conversation going with others
  • The child does not have imaginative or social play
  • The child uses unusual or repetitive language
  • The child is extremely preoccupied with certain objects or subjects
  • The child has a strict routine

As of right know doctors are not sure what causes autism. Doctors and scientists that genetic and environmental conditions are the likely causes of ASD.  They have found a number of genes that are associated with Autism. Some studies have shown that there are irregularities in several areas of the brain in people with ASD. Other studies have shown that ASD is linked to having abnormal levels or serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. All these studies have suggested that ASD may be caused by a disruption in normal brain development, but it still requires further study.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in 88 children have ASD in America and that this has increased in the past 40 years. They have also found that Autism is about 5 times more common in boys, 1 in 54 boys compared to 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed every year.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Info

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is the condition that describes what happens to a child whose mother who drank alcohol during the pregnancy. The effects of this can be long term and plenty of things can show up as an effect of it. It includes things like physical, behavioral, mental and/or learning disabilities that show up in the child. Sometimes these things are temporary and other times they are life long effects.

Some of the common effects that you will see include:

  • abnormal facial features
  • slowness of growth
  • central nervous system problems

How this happens is that pregnant women drink alcohol when they should not be, since they are pregnant. By doing this, they pass the alcohol along to their unborn babies through the blood stream. The end result of this behavior is physical and mental disabilities that are collectively known as FASD.

The numbers are not available when it comes to the prevalence of FASD in the United States. However, it is known that FASD seems to occur more often in certain tribes of Native Americans and Alaska natives. The important take away here is that any time a pregnant women drinks alcohol, she is increasing the risk of FASD with the child that she is carrying.

Doctors can diagnose FASD with the following criteria:

  1. Growth deficiency in height and/or weight either prenatally or postnatally.
  2. Specific pattern of facial anomalies: short eye slits, smooth or indistinct philtrum (the ridges running vertically between the nose and lips) and a thin upper lip.
  3. Some brain damage to the central nervous system demonstrated through microcephaly (small size of the brain), tremors, hyperactivity, fine or gross motor problems, attention deficits, learning disabilities, intellectual impairments and possible intellectual disability.
  4. Evidence of alcohol use by the birth mother during pregnancy (however, some diagnoses are made without this criteria).

If this diagnosis is given, know that there is no cure and that it does usually get worse with age. That being said, early identification is better for the child so that they can get help to live up to their potential.