Understanding intellectual and developmental disabilities

Raising a child with developmental disabilities is a long road filled with challenges. It is best to have information and support to help you along the way.

Since March is National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it gives us an opportunity to increase understanding about these disabilities, and to get the word out on support services that exist to help families. Equally important is learning how some disabilities can be prevented.

Developmental disabilities (DDs) include a wide group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. has a developmental disability or a developmental delay.

DDs are diagnosed during the developmental period or before a child reaches age 18, are life-long, and can be mild to severe. They impact a person’s ability to function well every day.

Developmental disabilities is the umbrella term that includes intellectual disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation), which is an impairment in intellectual and adaptive functioning. For example, individuals with intellectual disability may have problems with everyday life skills, (such as getting dressed or using a knife and fork), thinking, understanding, reasoning, speaking and the overall ability to learn. See this fact sheet to learn more.

DDs also include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, hearing loss, vision impairment, muscular dystrophy, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, among other disorders.

Developmental disabilities may be due to:

• Genetic or chromosomal problems
Premature birth
Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy
• Certain infections during pregnancy

However, in many cases, the cause is unknown.

Some disabilities can be prevented

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, learn how some disabilities and birth defects can be prevented.

Families need support

This blog series offers lots of resources – check out the Table of Contents for a list of what to do if you suspect your child may have a developmental delay or disability.  The series is updated every Wednesday.

You can also join our online community, Share Your Story, where parents of children with developmental delays and disabilities support one another.

In addition, here are a couple more resources:

The Arc: For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – For more than 60 years, and with nearly 700 chapters in the U.S., the ARC provides supports and services for people with disabilities and for affected families.

AIDD – According to their website, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities works to advance the concerns and interests of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through an array of programs funded under the Developmental Disabilities Act. AIDD is dedicated to ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are able to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of community life in the United States and its territories.

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One Response to “Understanding intellectual and developmental disabilities”

  1. Mary Anne A Ryan Says:

    Dont our governments realise that treating and circumventing the cause not the symptoms/ outcome is the way forward…this is #whywedoresearch
    More funding please!

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