Intellectual disability is a broad concept encompassing mental retardation or mental deficiency. So-called ‘intelligence’ refers to the ability of understanding, remembering, using information, problem solving, and the capacity for abstract thinking. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are less able compared to people of the same age, and this may become apparent before reaching the age of 18.
Adaptive behavior, or adaptive functioning, refers to the skills needed for a person to live independently. People with intellectual disabilities show limitations in some areas of adaptive behavior and can find it difficult to cope with the challenges of life. Certain skills are important for adaptive behavior and they can be summarized into three categories:
1) The learning of concepts: such as reading and writing, calculation, language understanding and expression, etc.
2) Social skills: interpersonal communication skills, the ability to observe rules, responsibility and self-protection;
3) Daily living skills: such as self-care, use of public facilities, vocational skills
A person is regarded as having an ‘intellectual disability’ if significant limitations are shown in two or more areas of adaptive behavior before the age of 18. After reaching adulthood, brain damage caused by accident or illness and memory loss from old age is not considered as intellectual disabilities.
Intellectual disability is not a disease and therefore cannot be cured by medication. However, individuals with intellectual disabilities are still able to learn – they often just require more time and effort.