Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are disorders that are usually identified at a child’s birth and that negatively affect the child’s physical, intellectual, and/or emotional development. These disorders may affect multiple body parts or systems.
An intellectual disability starts any time before a child turns 18 and is characterized by problems with both:
- Intellectual functioning or intelligence, which include the ability to learn, reason, problem solve and other skills
- Adaptive behavior, which includes everyday social and life skills
Developmental disabilities have a broader definition and are usually lifelong problems that can be intellectual, physical or both.
IDDs may affect a number of body parts and systems, such as the following:
- Nervous system by affecting how the brain, spinal cord and nervous system function, which can affect intelligence and learning. IDDs can also cause other problems such as behavioral disorders, speech or language difficulties, seizures and trouble with movement. Cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are examples of IDDs related to problems with the nervous system.
- Sensory system by affecting the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) or how the brain processes or interprets information from the senses. Preterm infants and infants exposed to infections, such as cytomegalovirus, may have problems with their eyesight and/or hearing. In addition, being touched or held can be difficult for people with ASDs.
- Metabolism by affecting how the body uses food and other materials for energy and growth and upsetting the balance of materials available for the body to function properly which can can cause problems with overall body and brain function. Phenylketonuria (PKU) and congenital hypothyroidism are examples of metabolic conditions that can lead to IDDs.
- Degenerative disorders with which a child may seem or be normal at birth and may develop normally for a time, but then the child begins to lose skills, abilities and functions because of the condition. In some cases, the problem may not be detected until the child is an adolescent or adult and starts to show signs of loss of function. Some degenerative disorders result from other conditions, such as untreated problems of metabolism.
If you wonder whether your child may have an intellectual or developmental disability, you are welcome to make an appointment to talk with us.