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What is intellectual development disorder?

Intellectual development disorder is a neuro-developmental disorder that causes problems with intellectual tasks. Children with intellectual development disorder have trouble with things like learning, communicating, thinking rationally, making judgments, and planning. They often struggle in school and may also have problems with friends and day-to-day tasks like bathing or getting dressed. They might seem to be acting out, but really the problem is that they don’t understand what behavior is appropriate. 

Intellectual development disorder is a relatively new diagnosis. In the past, these same symptoms were called “mental retardation.” 

What are the symptoms of intellectual development disorder?

The main symptom of intellectual development disorder is learning slowly. Specific symptoms include:  

  • Crawling, walking or talking later than other children 
  • Struggling to keep up at school  
  • Finding it hard to remember things, solve problems, or learn and apply new information 
  • Difficulty speaking to others, reading body language and understanding social cues 
  • Having trouble making and keeping friends  
  • Having trouble doing daily tasks, such as basic self-care or handling money  
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities or organizing tasks 

How is intellectual development disorder diagnosed?

To get a diagnosis of intellectual development disorder, a child must score below 70 on an IQ test. The IQ test is designed to measure how well they can think and learn things.  

Kids with intellectual development disorder also struggle with at least two of these things: 

  • Giving and getting information (communication skills) 
  • Speaking and working with others (interpersonal skills) 
  • Daily living skills like getting dressed and using the bathroom 

Intellectual development disorder usually starts before the child is born. It can also be caused by some injuries or by being near toxic items before the age of 18.  

What are the risk factors for intellectual development disorder?

Some risk factors for intellectual development disorder are: 

  • Genetic factors 
  • The child’s brain didn’t grow as expected while the baby was in the womb 
  • The child’s mother drank alcohol or used drugs while pregnant 
  • Issues with the child’s birth  
  • Bad brain injury 
  • Certain illnesses 
  • Seizures 
  • The child was not taken care of as a baby  

How is intellectual development disorder treated?

Intellectual development disorder cannot be cured. Special education and rehabilitation programs can help children learn some skills they will need as adults. The goal is for them to live happy lives and do things independently when they can. 

This guide was last reviewed or updated on December 18, 2023.