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Intellectual Disabilities Summary and Conclusion

Tammy Reynolds, B.A., C.E. Zupanick, Psy.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Intellectual disabilities (ID, formerly mental retardation) are defined by significant limitations in intellectual functioning (mental abilities) and adaptive functioning (life skills). Associated features, prevalence, life expectancy, and severity classifications were discussed.

Intellectual disabilities do not represent a particular disease or disorder. Instead, they result from many causes. These are medical conditions, brain damage, genetic causes, and certain psychiatric conditions.

The methods used to diagnose intellectual disabilities were reviewed. The diagnostic criteria for the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Association on Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disorders (AAIDD) criteria were reviewed and contrasted.

Historically, attitudes toward persons with intellectual disabilities have generally been very negative. Social stigma has been reduced as the medical causes were revealed. Contemporary and historical controversies were reviewed.

Since intellectual disabilities are not illnesses, there are no treatments. Instead, Individualized Support Plans (ISPs) are developed. The goal of the ISP is to assess the individual needs and competencies of each person. Then, a strategy for maximizing competencies while limiting challenges is developed. The primary objective of the ISP is to optimize functioning and life satisfaction. Individual Support Plans address intellectual functioning through the provision of educational supports and adaptive functioning. Supports for adaptive behavior include: social skills training, supported employment, supported housing, and various therapies.

Families caring for people with intellectual disability need their own support. Among the services for families there are: community supports, financial supports, advanced directives for future care, respite and emergency services, family education and support groups, and advocacy and legal supports.

In conclusion, people with intellectual disabilities can live meaningful, satisfying, and productive lives, within their own communities, when provided adequate supports. We salute the courage and dedication of families and other advocates who have tirelessly worked to improve the lives of these deserving citizens.