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21 disabilities under RPWD 2016 - Intellectual Disability

As part of our series about the 21 disabilities covered by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016, today we will talk about 'Intellectual Disability'.

What is Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability is a term used to describe mental and learning impairments or disabilities that impact on the day to day functioning of the affected people. Earlier the term used to describe these conditions was mental retardation. A person with below-average intelligence or mental ability to perform simple tasks is said to have Intellectual Disability. This however, does not mean that the affected people cannot learn the skills to perform the said tasks of everyday life. They can learn but the process will be slower and take a longer duration than other people without Intellectual Disabilities.


Intellectual disability can affect a person in two ways. The person may have a lower intelligence and face difficulty in learning, reasoning, making decisions, and solving problems. Intellectual disability can affect the adaptive behaviors that make it difficult for a person to operate in a social set up. The person may not have the ability to communicate effectively, interact with other people, and taking care of themselves.

IQ test or Intelligence Quotient is measured to ascertain the intellect of a person. Most people have an IQ score of between 85 and 115 and that is an average. A person with intellectual disability have an IQ of less than 70 to 75.

The adaptive behaviors can be observed by experts to understand the level or severity of the intellectual disability. A child is observed for skills and behaviors as compared to other children of the same age.


Intellectual disability can be present in various ways and severities. Some signs that can be detected in children are as follows.

- Slow development and growth as compared to other children of the same age.

- Memory related issues.

- Late talking or communication.

- Behavior issues.

- Reasoning, thinking and logic related issues.


Some common causes can be hereditary, accidents or mutations in genes.

- Genetic conditions such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.

- Complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

- Illness or injury.

- In two-thirds of all children the cause of intellectual disability remains unkown.

Early intervention programs can help in timely diagnoses and follow up with medications and therapies to manage the signs. Special education programs and techniques are used to help children with intellectual disabilities in academics and social life.

Early intervention hugely impacts the overall learning and holistic development of an infant or a young child. They learn, experience and apply their activities of daily living with ease whether it is in the field of academics, self help skills, social interaction, physical development and communication. They also learn to work with confidence in an adaptive environment. - Nandita Paul, Special Educator.

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