Intellectual Disability & Developmental Delay

If your child has an intellectual disability or a developmental delay, these challenges can impact his or her cognition, social development and learning as well as his or her day-to-day functioning, including self-care, community living skills and communication of wants and needs. A developmental delay includes characteristics of an intellectual disability, but this diagnosis is reserved for children younger than five who may not be able to be reliably assessed in cognitive domains. These children have a number of weaknesses in meeting developmental milestones. An intellectual disability (ID) is a disability that impacts both intellectual and adaptive development and functioning. ID is present first in the developmental period. Challenges must be conceptual, social and practical, according to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). Children with intellectual disabilities tend to learn much more slowly than would be typical. These children can and do make progress, but this progress is not at the same rate as the progress of other learners. Speaking, walking, kicking a ball, playing and engaging with others may all be delayed. You may describe your child as a really hard worker who struggles. You may see that he or she is more immature than peers, needs more help than others and just doesn’t get it as quickly as other children.

What are Intellectual Disability & Developmental Delay?

The primary deficits in an intellectual disability are discussed below. Individuals may have trouble with reasoning, problem solving, verbal comprehension, retaining information, abstract thinking, academic skills and adaptive skills. Challenges must be obvious in both clinical evaluation and standardized intelligence testing (IQ). Challenges must be evident across multiple settings; in other words, challenges in school alone would not be enough to meet criteria. Difficulties must be evident in the child’s school, home, and community.

Conceptual. An individual with ID may have difficulty learning academic information, recalling conceptual information, and processing new information. Despite lots of support, a child may not be learning reading and math like peers. Using repetition, visual strategies, small group or one-on-one support may be most successful, but progress may still be markedly slow. Children with more severe IDs may have challenges understanding and communicating with language and also with understanding concepts like time, numbers and money. With very severe deficits, understanding anything symbolic may be challenging. Children may need to learn only within the physical world, and language could be severely impacted.

Social. The social domain considers spoken language as an integral part of understanding, conversation and social interaction. Mildly impaired children may seem just a bit immature. Language may be more concrete, and understanding of social dynamics may be as well. Individuals with ID may be easier to manipulate or take advantage of because of their more concrete understanding of social situations. For individuals with ID, making and having social opportunities and social connections is very important. Research shows us that individuals who have strong social connections are much happier and more productive in life. Social groups, activities and community centers are very important for people with ID. The support of family is invaluable so that children and adults with ID will feel connections and have relationships to rely on for support.

Practical. Individuals with ID typically need support planning and organizing a schedule, budgeting, shopping for groceries, and keeping track of appointments. Individuals can often learn lots of self-care skills, community skills and home care. They may struggle to live completely independently, preferring an apartment close to a family member, a group home with built in social opportunities or having a caregiver. Mild and Moderately impaired individuals can handle a lot of personal and self-care tasks and may be very successful at jobs that are more concrete in nature or may excel in concrete tasks at school. Extra support from supervisors, teachers, paraprofessionals, and others will greatly impact progress. Severe and profoundly impacted individuals will be more reliant on others for self-care. Sometimes, toileting, bathing, eating, dressing, and other daily skills require comprehensive support. A small percentage of individuals may have self-injuring behaviors, such as biting or hitting themselves. Individuals with more significant impairments need a great deal more support than do those with mild to moderate challenges.

Severity Levels. ID is characterized as having four different severity levels. Severity level Mild includes traits that are subtle and may not be obvious to those who are not trained to diagnose, but the child’s challenges are significant enough to lead to a referral. Severity level Moderate is noted for individuals who might have more challenges communicating, speaking in simple sentences, and maybe more obviously impaired. Severity level Severe is for individuals who have significant deficits, and Profound is the level for individuals who are most impacted.

What are the signs and symptoms of Intellectual Disability & Developmental Delay?

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How is Intellectual Disability & Developmental Delay treated?

It is important to explore and consider an assessment as concerns arise. The services that diagnosed young children qualify for can enable them to make greater gains and strides in developing the cognitive and adaptive skills they will need to function independently. Children with DD or ID do make progress. This progress may be slower and more challenging to reach, and so starting early can be a great help to your child. Taking all this information into consideration, it is important to assess children at a young age and to determine whether services are warranted.

Organizations that work with individuals who have IDs stress the point that learning and progress are possible and can be steady and marked. Progress tends to be slow, but individuals with IDs and DDs can learn. It is important that we as a society, including families, schools and community organizations, understand this progression and work to support members of our society who may need a bit more teaching and patience but who are valuable members of our community. Community skills training and opportunities to find jobs and roles in the community have a huge impact on quality of life. Providing social outlets and community supports can go a long way in helping individuals with ID succeed. Taken together, it is valuable to obtain a diagnosis and to engage in the appropriate therapies as early as is feasible. With these supports in place, it is possible to see growth in skills, the ability to form meaningful relationships, and the potential to live a fulfilling life.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Intellectual Disability & Developmental Delay?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-one-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.

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Our Initial Consultation allows us to get a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and determine if an assessment is appropriate.

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Our Assessments allow us to determine your child’s specific strengths and challenges. We can use this information to develop a customized support plan which includes: referrals

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Once we understand your child’s needs, we will help families get connected to the right specialists. No more guesswork, no more wasted time and resources.

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Our Coaching Packages allow us to continually support families as they continue their journeys. Parental coaching, clinical referrals and school advocacy are just a few examples of ways we help.

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