Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability in English

Medical Words

Statistically, about three percent of the population is affected by intellectual disability. Different degrees of severity are differentiated from the so-called “borderline intelligence” to “severe intellectual disability”. This is an impairment of mental abilities.

What is intellectual disability?

The cause may be that the mother contracted viral or bacterial infections (e.g. rubella) during pregnancy or consumed drugs (nicotine, heroin), medicines or alcohol or was malnourished or malnourished. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Intellectual Disability.

Intellectual disability is defined as an incomplete or stalled development of mental abilities that affect the level of intelligence (language, cognition, social and motor skills) . Depending on the intelligence quotient, different levels are distinguished: An IQ of 70 to 84 is referred to as “borderline intelligence”. Those affected learn more slowly and have difficulties absorbing school material.

A mild intellectual disability is characterized by an IQ between 50 and 69, which corresponds to the age of a nine to twelve year old child. Those affected can usually be accommodated in special schools for the learning disabled and are able to go to school. A moderate intellectual disability denotes an IQ between 35 and 49, which corresponds to the intelligence level of six to nine year olds.

If the intelligence age is three to less than six years (corresponding to an IQ of 20 to 34), experts speak of severe intellectual disability. If the IQ is below 20, the diagnosis is severe intellectual disability, which entails severe limitations in language ability, continence and mobility. Depending on the severity, those affected require more or less care and a protected environment.


The causes of mental retardation are often no longer precisely identifiable. However, there are some risk factors that significantly increase the likelihood of later disability. Intellectual disability is often genetically and chromosomally determined (e.g. in trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome), and metabolic disorders are also conceivable.

A lack of talent can also be the result of a brain-organic developmental defect, such as occurs in epilepsy, or be hormonally conditioned. It is also possible that the mother contracted viral or bacterial infections during pregnancy (e.g. rubella) or consumed drugs (nicotine, heroin), medicines or alcohol or was malnourished or malnourished.

Prematurity or birth trauma can also result in permanent damage and represent causes. In some cases, however, the intellectual disability also occurs postnatally. It can accompany an infection such as meningitis transmitted by tick bites. It was also found that vaccination damage or low vitamin D blood levels can play a role, since the latter are unfavorable for brain performance.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

There are numerous symptoms, signs and symptoms that indicate intellectual disability. However, it is important to differentiate these from other mental illnesses and from dementia. This is the task of careful diagnostics.

In general, the following signs often appear in the case of lack of talent: Affected people often show a pronounced passivity and psychological dependence as well as a low frustration tolerance. For this reason, they are very often dependent on care and a protected environment. Impaired impulse control, self-injury and aggressiveness can also be indications of intellectual disability.

Furthermore, people with disabilities have a reduced ability to adapt to the demands of everyday life and are very often impaired in verbal and non-verbal communication, which can make coexistence with the environment difficult, as they often find it difficult to make themselves understood and themselves have serious difficulties in understanding.

Even simple tasks can present insurmountable problems, which can hamper those affected in their social development. Social adjustment disorders, behavioral problems and possibly also physical symptoms are further signs of a lack of talent.

Diagnosis & course of disease

In order to make the correct diagnosis, there are essentially two instruments available: on the one hand, this is the clinical impression that results from the observation, and on the other hand, the measurement of the intelligence quotient through intelligence tests. The latter provide reliable information about the degree of severity of the lack of ability.

If there is a reduction in intelligence, it can no longer be reversed, its effects can only be slightly alleviated. Those affected are dependent on good living and working conditions and often on intensive care, otherwise there is a risk of social withdrawal, loneliness and isolation, since the environment usually has little understanding.


The effects and symptoms of intellectual disability depend very much on the severity of this disease. As a rule, the everyday life of the patient is made considerably more difficult by the intellectual disability. Parents and relatives often suffer from psychological problems or depression. Most patients are restricted in their thinking and actions by this reduction.

It can also lead to severe mood swings or thought disorders. In the worst case, those affected are aggressive and can also show self-injurious behavior. It is not uncommon for a reduction in intelligence to lead to social problems, so that children in particular are excluded from groups at school or in kindergarten. Bullying or teasing can also occur.

Learning is also made significantly more difficult by intellectual disability, so that in most cases the adult patient will also suffer from this disease. This disease is treated through various therapies and promotions. In some cases, patients need special protection because they do not correctly assess the dangers and could injure themselves.

In some cases, treatment in a closed clinic is also necessary. However, it cannot be universally predicted whether the treatment of intellectual disability will lead to a positive course of the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

A medical check-up is not always necessary in the case of intellectual disability. If normal everyday requirements can be carried out, no doctor is needed. In some cases, the affected person needs more time to complete upcoming tasks due to reduced intelligence. If there is severely reduced intelligence, the person affected often needs help and support in coping with everyday life. In order to be able to assess exactly how mental performance is possible, an IQ test should be carried out as soon as children or adolescents show clear differences compared to their peers.

If the person concerned quickly seems overwhelmed or finds it difficult to learn new things, an assessment of the existing intelligence is recommended. A doctor should be consulted if there is a delay in development, severe forgetfulness or a premature halt to intellectual development. If the affected person often seems absent, there are significant delays in learning or if new skills can only be acquired very slowly and with great effort, a doctor’s visit should be made. To promote the existing intelligence, a doctor can give important tips for training or regularly applicable exercise units. If there are disorders of memory, if there is a clear loss of existing mental performance or if there is an unnatural mental decline in the course of life, it is advisable

Treatment & Therapy

It is usually no longer possible to treat the cause of the intellectual disability, as this is usually irreversible due to the organic nature of the brain. Prevention and prevention are all the more important. However, it is possible to support those affected very early on in their development and in this way to strengthen existing resources and mitigate weaknesses. Good integration in families or in special institutions is also necessary if there is a need for care.

Affected people often need special protection because their psychosocial constitution means they are more at risk of being neglected or abused. Depending on the degree of severity, special needs schools are also suitable for people with learning disabilities if they are able to go to school. The less gifted generally need optimal living and working conditions in order to be able to develop in the best possible way.

While in the past they were mainly accommodated in homes, other forms of life are now being encouraged. For example, there is assisted living or various integrative therapy programs that are intended to improve social integration and prevent hospitalization. In this way, those affected should be able to participate in social life.

If behavioral disorders are also present in addition to the intellectual disability, drug therapy can also make sense in order to reduce the level of suffering for those affected and for the environment. However, there is no drug therapy for intellectual disability itself. This can only be slightly mitigated, but not eliminated.

Outlook & Forecast

Intellectual disability has an unfavorable prognosis. The disorders of the brain are irreparable, so that a cure cannot take place. With targeted training and courses tailored to the individual needs of those affected, improvements in cognitive performance can be achieved. These lead to an increase in general mental abilities and a stability of the acquired knowledge. Despite all efforts, an intelligence in the normal range is not achieved.

The aim of therapy is to improve existing skills as far as possible so that everyday tasks can be partially or almost completely taken over by the person concerned. Verbal and non-verbal communication is also trained to improve interpersonal interactions. This results in improved well-being and an increase in the general quality of life.

If there are chronic diseases, there is no prospect of stabilization of cognitive skills. The prognosis in these patients is particularly poor. Due to the underlying disease, there is a continuous reduction in mental performance that cannot be interrupted with the conventional medical options available to date. Treatment attempts to influence the progression of the disease. This is intended to delay the degradation processes and maintain an existing level for as long as possible. In these cases, mental performance cannot be restored.


In order to prevent intellectual disability, preventive measures should first be taken during pregnancy. Many undesirable developments can be detected and stopped before birth. Expectant mothers should also ensure that their lifestyle is as healthy as possible and avoid drugs and alcohol in any form.

In childhood, parents should take measures to detect possible illnesses at an early stage in order to be able to intervene in good time. Ultimately, prevention is the best alternative for people with disabilities, as this can only be slightly improved later but cannot be reversed.


In most cases, follow-up care is relatively difficult in the case of intellectual disability, so that this disease cannot always be completely cured. In some cases, this reduction can also be alleviated, whereby the further course also depends very much on the underlying disease and also on the time of diagnosis. However, it cannot heal on its own.

Most of those affected are dependent on the support of their own family and friends in their everyday life as part of an intellectual disability. It is not uncommon for them to be unable to cope with everyday life on their own and therefore require intensive care. Loving conversations with one’s own family are also very important, as this may also prevent depression or other psychological upsets.

Likewise, contact with other sufferers with the same disease can be very useful, since this leads to an exchange of information. Those affected often have to be accommodated in a special facility. If the intellectual disability is caused by a genetic disease, a genetic examination and counseling should be carried out if you wish to have children. This can prevent the degradation from occurring again.

You can do that yourself

As a rule, the affected person cannot take any measures that have a causal effect, since the disorder is usually caused by organic brain processes and is irreversible. In addition, the patient is often unable to help himself anyway due to his mental retardation. Instead, the relatives and the social immediate field are required.

Parents who observe developmental disorders in their child should act promptly. Cognitive impairments in children usually manifest themselves in the fact that both their motor and their social skills do not develop in an age-appropriate manner. Many affected children also show severely delayed language development. The vocabulary and the ability to form complex sentence structures are far behind those of the same age. Parents should consult a doctor immediately in such cases to have the causes clarified. If there is actually an intellectual disability, it is important that the child is optimally supported as early as possible. By means of psychologicaland pedagogical measures, existing deficits cannot always be compensated for, but they can usually be reduced.

Children with intellectual disabilities are also rarely able to attend a normal school. Since suitable special school places are often scarce, it is important that the families of those affected look for a suitable childcare place at least twelve to 18 months before they reach school age. If it becomes apparent that the person concerned is dependent on a protected environment for life, parents should inform themselves in good time about all the alternative care options on offer in order to be able to guarantee the best possible care for their child.

Intellectual Disability