intellectual disability

What Is Considered An Intellectual Disability?

What Is Considered An Intellectual Disability?

An intellectual disability, also known as ID, is when someone experiences significant limitations in their cognitive functioning, social, communication, and personal care skills. 

Because everyone’s experience of ID, and indeed other types of disability, is different and unique – there can be some confusion when it comes to defining exactly what is considered an intellectual disability. 

Here we discuss answers to this question and tackle some of the misconceptions surrounding the topic. And finally, we will offer up some advice for anyone who needs help navigating an intellectual disability within the NDIS. 

Let’s get started.

What does an intellectual disability mean?

intellectual disability

Generally, there are two main characteristics of intellectual disabilities that are widely recognised both in Australia and around the world:

1. Intellectual functioning
Intellectual functioning refers to the ability to learn, reason and problem-solve. In other words, it’s the general mental capacity to function independently and rationally. People with severe intellectual disabilities can face significant limitations on their ability to exercise these capacities. A person with a mild intellectual disability could face difficulties with tasks involving comprehension, memory, planning, or abstract thinking.

2. Adaptive behaviour
Adaptive behaviour is a broad term for a range of social skills, conceptual, and everyday activities that we learn over time. These include, for example, the ability to:

  • Understand literacy, numeracy
  • Speak a language
  • Follow the rule of law
  • Carry out personal care and other responsibilities*

*This example list is non-exhaustive

An intellectual disability could mean that the ability to engage with these behaviours and concepts is in some way limited or even non-existent.

Why it’s important to understand intellectual disabilities

understand intellectual disabilities
With about 3% of the Australian population living with some form of intellectual disability, it’s helpful to understand the various types and causes of these disabilities. The more awareness spreads about the difficulties and struggles that arise from living with an intellectual disability, the easier it is for society to make vital changes in behaviour and policy that will benefit those who live with ID. When a society becomes more informed the easier it is for those living with ID to feel more empowered to live up to their goals and dreams.

What causes intellectual disabilities?

There are multiple possible causes of intellectual and developmental disabilities, most of which develop before birth, or in early childhood. Common types of intellectual disabilities include Down’s Syndrome, and Fragile X Syndrome. Here are some common causes:

  • Genetics
  • Birth defects or infections
  • Injury at a young age or soon after birth
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals

How are intellectual disabilities diagnosed?

intellectual disabilities

There are multiple ways of diagnosing intellectual disabilities. The most common way is via an IQ test where a result of below 70 would be considered within the range of possessing an intellectual disability. But this is by no means the only way and should be used along with other doctor’s tests.

Intellectual disabilities are often not fully recognisable during infancy and only surface during their first years at school or Kindergarten. The diagnosis and noticeability of these disabilities will entirely depend on the type and level of impairment.

Is intellectual disability the same as learning disability?

intellectual disability

The short answer is no. An intellectual disability refers to a condition where someone lacks the mental ability and skills to carry out daily tasks and care for themselves.

A learning disability, on the other hand, is where someone faces difficulties learning and applying concepts such as science, mathematics or finds it harder at first to engage with writing or reading exercises. While both disabilities do affect learning, they don’t refer to the same thing and can often be misused in everyday conversation.

What is considered an intellectual disability in Australia?

intellectual disability in Australia
Across Australia, and within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), multiple different types and syndromes are recognised as causing an intellectual disability. Here are the main conditions that are likely to meet the NDIS requirements in section 24 of the Act:
  • Moderate, Severe, or Profound Intellectual disability with an IQ of 55 or less and severe deficit in adaptive functioning.
  • Autism, as diagnosed by a team of specialists, a clinical psychologist, paediatrician, or psychiatrists under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) diagnostic criteria.
  • Severe Cerebral Palsy
  • Spinal cord or brain injury
  • Permanent blindness in both eyes
  • Deafblindness
  • Permanent hearing loss in both ears
  • Amputation or absence of two limbs
  • Various Genetic Conditions (see the full list here).

How does the NDIS help?

intellectual disabilities

Anyone with a recognised intellectual disability can apply for support from the NDIS.

The NDIS recognises a broad range of intellectual disabilities in its scheme and as of December 2019, there were around 78,992 participants who have registered with an intellectual disability, making up about one-fifth of all NDIS participants with an approved plan. Through a personalised NDIS plan, participants who live with an intellectual disability can receive funding and assistance to help them:

  • Socialise and gain independence
  • Carry out daily tasks such as self care
  • Seek and gain employment
  • Form relationships and achieve life goals

Have you been diagnosed with an ID? Try NDIS plan management

diagnosed with an intellectual disabilities

For anyone living with an intellectual disability, paying invoices and tracking funding might not be feasible to do on their own or by a family member, so having an NDIS plan manager in Perth as part of their plan and registered support is crucial.

From taking care of monthly reporting, budgeting, and ensuring access to the best possible supports, NDIS plan managers like us here at Onboard Supports can help anyone in this position make the most of their plan. Give us a call today and find out about how NDIS fund management can change how your NDIS journey.