About Intellectual Disabilities

About Intellectual Disabilities

What is an intellectual disability?

Intellectual disability is the term used to describe a severe and chronic condition that includes a mental or physical impairment or a combination of both. People with intellectual disabilities learn slowly and develop skills at a slow pace. Individuals may have difficulty putting what they learn to use or adapting to some of the demands of daily life. Aside from this, people with intellectual disabilities are just like everyone else, they think, they feel, and they have hopes and dreams. And with proper education, training and understanding, many can become productive and self-supporting members of society.

What causes someone to have an intellectual disability?

Any condition, illness or injury that affects mental development before, during or after birth can cause an intellectual disability. There are some 200 known causes of intellectual disabilities but the leading ones are genetic disorders, hereditary factors, injuries to a pregnant mother and brain damage caused by lack of oxygen at birth or a head injury in childhood.

Is an intellectual disability the same as a mental illness?

Sometimes people confuse an intellectuall disability with a mental illness. It is not a mental illness. People with a mental illness have an emotional or mood disorder and in most cases they can get help with medical attention or medication. Examples of mental illnesses are depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia.

Is there a difference between “disability” and “handicap”?

Most people use the terms disability and handicap in the same way but they do not mean the same thing. A disability is a functional limitation or restriction to an individual’s ability to perform an activity. A handicap is a barrier either in the environment or someone’s attitude that limits a person from participating fully in an activity.

Do persons with intellectual disabilities all look alike?

Like any other group of people, people with intellectual disabilities are physically diverse. It is true that there are some common physical traits that are associated with Down’s Syndrome. However, these individuals are also not identical. It is not possible to tell that someone has an intellectual impairment simply by looking at them.

Do people with intellectual disabilities still live in institutions?

There are no more institutions in BC. Today, an increasing number of individuals with intellectual disabilities are remaining at home with their families. More are also attending schools or participating in the workplace depending on how severe the disability is. With more support for independent living opportunities, some individuals with intellectual disabilities may choose to live in a supervised group home on entirely on their own.