Symptoms of Intellectual Disability

Signs & Symptoms of Intellectual Disability

Signs & Symptoms of Intellectual Disability

If you think your child may have an intellectual disability, learning the signs and symptoms, as well as the different levels of severity, could help you determine the best course of action and treatment to help your child. Individuals with an intellectual disability may have difficulties learning or completing some of the tasks of everyday life, especially those that rely heavily on cognitive function. An intellectual disability occurs when the brain has not developed properly or has been injured in some way, causing lower than average intelligence and learning deficits. The Special Olympics Arizona team is breaking down the recognizable signs and symptoms that children with an intellectual disability often exhibit.

Signs & Symptoms of Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a broad term to describe many different levels of intellectual deficits that can be exhibited in babies, children, and adults. The signs and symptoms vary greatly depending on the severity of the disability, but in general, some basic signs and symptoms of an intellectual disability are as follows:

Intellectual Deficit Signs

An intellectual disability will naturally affect intellectual functioning, resulting in intellectual deficits. Signs of an intellectual deficit include failure to meet intellectual milestones, such as making eye contact or talking. Sitting, walking, or talking later than other babies is also a sign that they are behind on key life milestones. Memory problems, or the inability to understand the consequences of actions, are signs of intellectual deficits, as are the inability to think logically and a lack of curiosity.

Adaptive Functioning Deficit Signs

Adaptive functioning deficits are deficits related to the activities of daily life as well as social functioning in children. Individuals with intellectual disabilities may have issues with activities of daily life, such as getting dressed and eating meals. They may display challenges with communicating and will often show aggression, dependency, withdrawal from social activities, or attention seeking behaviors. A lack of impulse control or passivity towards the world and people around them can also be a symptom of an intellectual disability.

Developmental Period Onset Signs

As school-age progresses, more symptoms may begin to appear. They may have difficulty learning and paying attention in school, as well as a lack of interest in learning and engaging with their peers. They may show signs of low self-esteem as well as depression or anxiety during their adolescent years. They may have a tendency towards self-harm and a low tolerance for frustration. Some individuals with an intellectual disability will develop psychotic disorders during their adolescent and adult years.

Intellectual Disability Severity Levels

Intellectual disability is divided into four severity levels, depending on the individual’s IQ and functioning ability.

Symptoms of Mild Intellectual Disability

Individuals with an IQ between 50 and 69 tend to have a mild intellectual disability. Symptoms include:

  • It takes longer to learn to talk, but they communicate well once they do.
  • Being fully independent once they get older.
  • Having some minor problems with reading and writing in school.
  • Being socially immature.
  • Increased difficulties with the adult responsibilities of parenting or marriage.

Individuals with a mild intellectual disability will often greatly benefit from intervention and special education programs in school.

Symptoms of Moderate Intellectual Disability

Individuals with an IQ between 35 and 39 tend to have a moderate intellectual disability. Symptoms include:

  • Slow in their understanding and use of language.
  • Prolonged difficulties with communication and self-expression.
  • Ability to learn basic reading, writing, and counting skills.
  • Inability to live on their own and take care of themselves as adults.
  • Ability to get around to a small number of familiar places.

Symptoms of Severe Intellectual Disability

Individuals with an IQ between 20 and 34 tend to have a severe intellectual disability. Symptoms include:

  • Noticeable motor impairment.
  • Severe damage to the central nervous system.

Symptoms of Profound Intellectual Disability

Individuals with an IQ lower than 20 tend to have a profound intellectual disability. Symptoms include:

  • Inability to understand or comply with directions or instructions.
  • Possible immobility.
  • Incontinence.
  • Very basic nonverbal communication.
  • The need for constant supervision and help.
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