Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability

Children with this type of disability have below-average intellectual ability. They may also have poor communication, self-care and social skills. Down syndrome is one example of an intellectual disability.

Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. Thisdisability originates before the age of 18.



  • The large majority of individuals considered intellectually disabled are in the mild range with an IQ of 50 to 70. For many of these individuals, there is no specific known cause of their developmental delays. 

These are two characteristics shared in varying degrees by all individuals with intellectual disabilities are limitations in intellectual functioning and limitations in adaptive behavior. 

  • Limitations in intellectual functioning often include difficulties with memory recall, task and skill generalization, and these students may demonstrate a tendency towards low motivation and learned helplessness.
  • Issues in adaptive behavior may include difficulties with conceptual skills, social skills and practical skills.




Useful strategies for teaching students with intellectual disabilities include, but are not limited to, the following techniques:

  • Teach one concept or activity component at a time
  • Teach one step at a time to help support memorization and sequencing
  • Teach students in small groups, or one-on-one, if possible
  • Always provide multiple opportunities to practice skills in a number of different settings
  • Use physical and verbal prompting to guide correct responses, and provide specific verbal praise to reinforce these responses