Intelectual Disabilties

Exceptionality Description

A conditioned characterized by impaired intellectual functioning, limited adaptive behavior, needs for supports.


  • Intellectual functioning causes students to have setbacks in their mental abilities which also reflects on adaptive behavior abilities as well.
  • Agressive
  • Adaptive behavior limitations affect: Conceptual, Practical, and Social skills.
  1. Conceptual Weaknesses affects: language, reading and writing, as well as number concepts such as time and money management.
  2. Practical Weaknesses affects: Individuals ability to live on their own and take care of their hygiene, transportation, daily routines, and general life skills.
  3. Social Weaknesses affects: Individuals self-esteem, following rules, interacting with others, communication, and responsibilities.

Based on the measurement of severity of weaknesses, individuals with intellectual disabilities can be distinguished as having mild, moderate, severe, or profound impairments.


Learning difficulties

Can communicate and behave well in social environments

Often experience social difficulties, social responsibility, problem solving, and adherence to rules (Shepherd, Hoban, Dixon, 2014)


Little support for self care

Social skills abilities varies

Basic communication abilities


Can understand speech, but has little ability to communicate themselves

Needs support in social aspects

Basic self care abilities and life skills


Without support individuals with a profound severity cannot communicate, care for themselves, or participate in social activities.


  • Although there is an inconsistent percentage of individuals with intellectual disabilities, we know that 7 million to 8 million individuals are diagnosed with having intellectual disabilities in the United States and within those 7-8 million individuals, one in ten families are affected.

Major Categories: Fragile X Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), Down Syndrome

Known cases are split into 3 categories:

  1. Genetic or Hereditary
  2. Prematurity or low birth weight toxins, malnutrition, such as whooping cough
  3. Child abuse and Neglect

*IQ scores and test scores can be used to determine if an individual should be diagnosed with an intellectual disability, but IQ scores and other tests are not dependable.


Fragile X Syndrome is caused by a genetic mutation on the X chromosome Fragile X is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities, more frequently caused in males than females (A. Sterling & L. Abbeduto, 2012).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused due to the mother consuming alcohol and exposing the baby to toxins and other drugs while pregnant.

Down Syndrome is caused by an extra copy of a chromosome.

Grace: A Down's Syndrome Documentary

Instructional Practice

One major characteristic that interferes with an individuals academic success is the weakness of conceptual skills. Conceptual skills focuses on the ability to read, write, and compute math problems. Not being able to read causes the student to have comprehension problems. Thus, if the student cannot read they do not have the ability to follow directions, understand stories, and even to solve word problems in math. The inability to write makes it difficult to do work in class and take notes. An individuals language is impaired when they are unable to read or write, resulting in the student being unable to ask questions or converse with others. Lastly, difficulty in computing math problems effects ones ability to learn how to manage money and understand time.

Helpful Strategies, Accommodations, and Modifications for the Classroom:

1) Audio Recordings- When students are reading the class aloud with the whole class or silently to themselves, provide the student with an audio recording of the text they are reading. This will make it easier for a student who troubles with reading and comprehension to follow along better and to keep up with the rest of the class.

2) Baby Steps- Instead of teaching one topic in one lesson, break it up into different lessons. Then, once each step is taught the student can the put all of the steps together. When each step is broken up into different sections or steps it is less overwhelming for the individual and they can process each step slowly and thoroughly.

3) Visual Aids- Charts, Graphs, Pictures, and Videos are all great tools that are useful when a student needs to see something rather than just listening or reading about it. Having a visual such as a chart of the students behavior and academic improvements allows the student to see how much they have advanced, this will assist in the students motivation as well.

Home Strategies to Generalize Classroom Supports

Useful at Home Strategies, Accommodations, and Modifications:

1) Picture Representations- For those with difficulties in communication, it is helpful when students can point to a picture that represents what they want, need, and feel. This will help students feel more comfortable with engaging and will allow them to interact with others.

2) Assign Chores- Give the child things to do around the house and break them into pieces, explaining what to do and use conceptual skills such as number concepts. This will keep the child thinking and improve multiple abilities while doing so.

3) Encourage Independence- Parents should allow their child to get dressed alone, brush their teeth, and get food for themselves. This will improve the child's ability to take care of some things on his or her own and will also help the individual to gain confidence and they will start to want to do more things on their own.

Little Speller APP

The Little Speller App is a game that shows a picture of a person, place, or thing and then they are asked to spell out what the picture is showing
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Five Things New Parents of Down Syndrome Children Need to Hear

This website is an article relating to a young boy with down syndrome, the information within the article is helpful for parents because it provides support for the parent for when the needs of their child can be overwhelming.

Special Olympics

This website provides information about The Special Olympics and what individuals are involved, how they become involved, and information on intellectual disability conditions.


Dombeck, M., Reynolds, T. (2013, May 21) Onset and Prevalence of Intellectual Disabilities, Mental Health Retrieved from:

Gluck, S. (2015, October 15) Mild, Moderate, Severe Intellectual Disability Differences, Healthy Place

Retrieved from:

Gluck, S. (2015, October 21) Intellectual Disability: Causes and Characteristics, Healthy Place Retrieved from:

Project Ideal (2013). Texas Council for Development Disabilities

Retrieved from:

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

Shepherd, A., Hoban, G., & Dixon, R. (2014). Using Slowmation to Develop the Social Skills of Primary School Students with Mild Intellectual Disabilities: Four Case Studies. Australasian Journal Of Special Education, 38(2), 150-168. doi:10.1017/jse.2014.11

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

Sterling, A., & Abbeduto, L. (2012). Language development in school-age girls with fragile X syndrome. Journal Of Intellectual Disability Research, 56(10), 974-983. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2012.01578.x

What Is An Intellectual Disability?