Intellectual disability

Diagnosis and treatment

Intellectual disability manifests before age 18 and involves limitations in some aspects of life, as a consequence of deficiencies in intellectual functions and adaptive behavior.

Subjects with intellectual disability do not form a homogeneous social group. It is necessary to promote social attitudes that encourage self-identity and provide support to the specific needs of each individual.

But, what do we mean by “support”? it involves resources and strategies to promote a person’s development, education, interests and well-being, to improve his/her individual functioning.

Therefore, the severity of an intellectual disability is no longer defined by the person’s IQ (intelligence quotient), but for the person’s adaptive functioning, because that is what’s going to determine the level of support needed.


Furthermore, the needs of individuals with an intellectual disability are not stable. They change and evolve just like anybody else’s needs. Support will not always be necessary, and also, support won’t be necessary under all circumstances. It is important to find a balance.

Those who give support to people with intellectual disabilities must encourage their decision- making capacity by helping them to set their personal goals according to their possibilities, but without influencing their willingness. Instead, they must promote their personal autonomy and determination.

On occasion, medication can be helpful for the treatment of behavioral disturbances, or other clinical situations: People with intellectual disability, like everybody else, can suffer from other mental disorders such as depression or psychosis, although symptoms can be different.