Understanding Intellectual Disability

The term ‘ID’ or ‘Intellectual Disability’ incorporates a variety of people with varying levels of impairment. The term ‘impairment’ refers to the amount of aid required to help a specific person cope with one of more areas of normal daily living (adaptive skills).

Typically, an intellectual disability (ID) is normally defined as an individual presenting with a Full Scale intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) score of 70 or below on a standardised intellectual assessment, along with difficulties in at least two areas of the following adaptive behaviours:

  1. Conceptual Behaviours (education, work, abstract thinking and memory)
  2. Social Behaviours (social awareness, interpersonal skills and empathy)
  3. Practical Behaviours (personal management of health, safety and finances)

Before the age of six, the term developmental delay is frequently used to signify that the child is not meeting key developmental milestones in areas such as communication, socialisation, and activities of daily living or motor skills (walking, dressing etc.) and is therefore at risk of Intellectual Disability.

A person with an Intellectual Disability also has significantly more difficulty in social and practical areas of learning such as:

  1. Learning new information
  2. Understanding social cues relating to general communication, and
  3. Acquiring critical life skills related to an ordinary course of living such as general awareness and preservation of self.

How is Intellectual Disability Diagnosed?

It is not uncommon for mild developmental delays to go unnoticed by parents. As a precaution, most doctors who suspect developmental delay will routinely screen children using simple questionnaires, such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaires.

The formal testing of ID has three components: a) a parent interview, b) observation of the child, and c) tests in which the child’s performance is compared with the normed results of children the same age. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children is an example of a a test that your child may undertake to measure intellectual ability.

What causes Intellectual Disability and how can it be prevented?

While a wide variety of medical and environmental conditions may cause ID, only one third of ID cases identify a cause for the diagnosis.

Identifying developmental delays and intellectual difficulties early is essential to maximise your child’s potential. Early identification permits structured brain based interventions to be undertaken and specific learning plans targeting the child’s level of learning to be implemented.

the occurrence of ID has in some cases been attributed to genetic and environmental factors and potential exposure of infectious condition that affect the development of the brain. The current outbreak of the Zika which has been linked to microcephaly and potentially intellectual disability is an example of both an environmental factor and infectious condition. A highly preventable cause of ID is Fetal alcohol syndrome which is caused by women drinking throughout childbirth.

What does an Intellectual Disability (ID) mean for my child?

Having a child with an Intellectual Disability does not mean that your child will not learn or participate in and positively contribute to your community. A child with an ID will most likely learn and process information more slowly, and will need more specialised support in school and work settings depending on the level of need. Overall it is important to remain well-informed so that a strong network of support may be established to ensure that your child will reach their full potential.

Are you considering our therapy programs for your child?

Get in touch with our friendly staff to arrange a consultation and assessment

Level 1, 66 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn VIC
Level 19, 56 Pitt St, Sydney NSW

T: (03) 9816 8811

E: [email protected]


Listen And Learn Centre is part of the neurocare group, a global network of clinics providing personalised and sustainable therapies for mental health, learning and development.

To find out more about our clinics in Australia, visit:

Copyright neuroCare Listen And Learn Pty Ltd. 2020. All rights reserved.

Digital Marketing by Supple
Call Now ButtonCall now