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What is intellectual disability?

Posted on August 13, 2019 by Ann

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What is intellectual disability?

A person with intellectual disability has limitations in intellectual functioning, in terms of reasoning, learning or problem solving.

This results in impairments in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following areas:

  1. Communication
  2. Self-care
  3. Home living
  4. Social/interpersonal skills
  5. Use of community resources
  6. Self-direction
  7. Functional academic skills
  8. Work
  9. Leisure
  10. Health and safety

Intellectual disability is not an illness or a disease, but a condition which can occur any time before, during or after birth, before the age of 18.

There are varying levels of intellectual disability ranging from mild, moderate, severe to profound.

What are the causes of intellectual disability?

It is not always possible to explain why a person has intellectual disability. However, some of the causes of intellectual disability may include:

  • Malnutrition or illness experienced by the mother during pregnancy, such as rubella or syphilis
  • Exposure to alcohol, drugs or tobacco during pregnancy
  • Problems that occur during pregnancy or during birth
  • Childhood illnesses that have lasting effects on development, such as meningitis and encephalitis
  • Certain types of infection
  • Injury to the brain or head
  • Lack of oxygen during birth or as a result of an accident (near drowning or suffocation)
  • Genetic conditions such as Down’s syndrome

Read more

Guide to Developing the Social Skills of Children with Disabilities


MINDS is an All In Preferred Partner.

Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) is one of the largest Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Singapore, serving some 2,400 clients from past the age of six to their ripe old age. MINDS’ services include four special schools, three employment development centres, three day training and development centres, and one multi-service residential home.

This guide was originally published by MINDS’ Allied Health Professionals unit and republished with minor editorial amendments by All In.

All content found on the All In website, has been created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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