What is an intellectual or developmental disability?
Intellectual disability is a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life. Levels of intellectual disability vary greatly – from a very slight problem to a very severe problem. For example, a child who has an intellectual disability might learn and develop more slowly than other children of the same age.
An intellectual disability can be caused by a problem that starts any time before a child turns 18 years old – even before birth. It can be caused by injury, disease, or a problem in the brain. For many people, the cause of their intellectual disability is not known. Some of the most common known causes of intellectual disability – like Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, genetic conditions, birth defects, and infections – happen before birth. Others happen during or soon after birth. Still other causes of intellectual disability do not occur until a child is older; these might include serious head injury, stroke, or certain infections.