Intellectual Disabilities

Intellectual disabilities can be defined as variations in mental functioning that then result in variety of deficits. These differences can be identified through the following characteristics:

1. Intellectual functioning typically falls below two standard deviations below the mean when performing IQ tests.

2. Adaptive behavior can be categorized into three areas.

  • Conceptual weakness can cause difficulties with speaking, reading, writing, and mathematical concepts.
  • Social weakness can result in low sense of self-esteem, responsibility, and overall communication.
  • Practical weakness can result an inability to do every-day tasks like hygiene, cooking, organization, transportation, and occupational tasks.

The listed characteristics then results for the need of supports to help the individual maintain well-being in every area of their life. Intellectual disabilities can be placed on a severity scale which indicated the degree at which the previous listed skills are impaired.

Major categories of intellectual disabilities include fragile X syndrome, down syndrome, and fetal alcohol syndrome (Smith & Tyler, 2014).

Prevalence of the disorder can be seen throughout the population with one in every ten families effected. Seven to eight million individuals are diagnosed with this disability in the United States (Reynolds, Zupanick, & Dombeck, n.d.).

Interference with the child’s learning can stem from these characteristics of the disability. Conceptual abilities are at the base of education. If a child has difficulties in these areas other associated areas may suffer as well. For example, if a child is unable to read than that limits their means of educational techniques. Communication is also a large part of the educational experience that allows that child to ask questions and participate. The inability to do everyday tasks will also cause an interference in their education (Smith & Tyler, 2014).


Instructional Practice

One major characteristic that could interfere with academic success is the ability to read. Reading is a large part of education, whether it is following directions or clarifying a topic. When the child is unable to read comprehension and understanding may be impaired.

Useful Classroom Accommodation/Strategy/Modification:

1.Technology is a great tool for students with disabilities, it is useful for prompting, organization, scheduling, and communication. For those with reading difficulties the text can be expressed in an auditory form. For those with speaking difficulties, picture representation can be used for communication. Also, sending e-mails to peers without disabilities can enhance social communication through the e-Buddies program (Smith & Tyler, 2014).

2.One strategy that could be useful to enhancing practical skills could be a schedule system. Since organization could be a deprived, laying out tasks could be beneficial. Color coding also is a great way to further differentiate between events (Smith & Tyler, 2014).

3. Many times when a child has poor communication skills they avoid eye contact, keep to themselves, and more. To help this skill the child could be reminded to make eye contact when speaking. Also, they could be given prompts for being a self-advocate or be given conversation topic suggestions (Smith & Tyler, 2014).

Useful Links:

Home Strategies to Generalize Classroom Supports

Home Application/ Modification/ Strategies:

It is important that strategies are continued when the child goes home to further generalize the skills learned in the classroom.

1. One strategy that could be used at both the home and school include the reward system. Completing a task appropriately or obtaining from unwanted behavior should be reinforced (Smith & Tyler, 2014).

2. If the child is having difficulties speaking, then home exercises can be practiced. The child can sit in front of a mirror and practice speaking certain words. The parent can be given a list of helpful tips to remind the child during practice (Smith & Tyler, 2014).

3. If child has difficulties adapting to stimuli and practicing self-regulation, techniques should be practiced at home. Some techniques may include lessening the severity of that sound or a personal calming method. A certain stuffed animal may calm the child and be used as a calming tool when changing environmental settings (Uyanik & Kayihan, 2010).

Supporting Link:


This website is a great way for parents of children with disabilities to stay connected. They can tell their own stories and comment on others.

This website is to learn about the special Olympics which helps an individual gain a sense of empowerment and passion.

This app is great for teaching children how to do daily tasks. The visual and auditory components help to demonstrate the activity.

Mild Intellectual Disability (MID)


Reynolds, T., Zupanick, C., & Dombeck, M. (n.d). Onset and prevalence of intellectual disabilities. Retrieved from

Smith, B., & Tyler, N. (2014). Introduction to contemporary special education. NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Uyanik, M., & Kayihan, H. (2010). Down Syndrome: Sensory Integration, Vestibular Stimulation and Neurodevelopmental Therapy Approaches for Children. Retrieved from