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Intellectual Disability: Causes and Impacts

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health
Wordcount: 2821 words Published: 11th Oct 2017

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Outcome 1: Define Intellectual Disability


1.1 Give 2 definitions of intellectual disability in accordance with a recognized source. Follow prescribed APA format when citing sources.

Definition 1:

Intellectual disability causes limitations in intellectual functioning as well as in adaptive behaviors that include many skills which is needed every day. The onset age is under 18.

Source: FAQ on Intellectual Disability, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, retrieved from: http://aaidd.org/intellectual-disability/definition/faqs-on-intellectual-disability

Definition 2:

Intellectual disability is a term used for when people has certain limitations in functioning mentally and in skills such as communicating, performing activities of daily living, and in his or her social behavior. Children with this ability may develop their skills (walking, talking, etc) at a delayed time as compared to normal. They may also have trouble with learning- it usually takes them a longer time to learn new skills.

Source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.(2005) Intellectual disability, retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/IntellectualDisability.pdf

1.2 Using a definition of intellectual disability give 2 explanations of how this impacts on the persons adaptive skills:

  1. People with intellectual disability have experienced impairment in their ability to comprehend information. As a result, they have a hard time with reading comprehension, handling money, dealing with numbers as well as time.
  2. Because of their impaired social functioning, they have tendency not to get along and socially deal with others. They are not able to recognize the laws of society or have a few limited abilities to follow rules.

Using a definition of intellectual disability give 2 explanations of how this impacts on the cognitive abilities:

  1. Persons suffering from intellectual disability have lack of the ability to explain why they do certain things or why certain things happen. This is due to their impaired intelligence.
  2. Learn and apply what is learnt- Intellectually disabled people have a hard time to gain new knowledge. It is difficult for them to process new information and understand new skills.

Age of onset of intellectual disability

There is no particular age to have start of the disability. But regarding to some research, it has been shown that it usually happen on the developmental period among 0-18 years old.

Outcome 2: Describe the causes of intellectual disability


2.1 Give 2 examples of causes of intellectual disability that occur before birth and describe two (2) main characteristics of the effects.

Example 1: Genetic factors

Source: sevencounties.org (2005-2014). Genetic Cause of Intellectual Disabilities, retrieved from: http://www.sevencounties.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=10335&cn=208

Main characteristics:

  1. Fragile X syndrome: Physical features of FXS patients include: large ears, long face, macroorchidism, infections in the ears, flat feet, high arched palate, fingers with double joints and hyper-flexible joints
  2. Prader-Willi Syndrome: People with Prader-Willi Syndrome have severe hypotonia. Therefore their sucking is poor in their early infancy.

Example 2: Environmental hazards and toxins

Source: sevencounties.org (2005-2014). The Many Causes of Intellectual Disabilities, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Environmental Exposure to Toxins, retrieved from: http://sevencounties.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=10333&cn=208

Main characteristics:

  1. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: During pregnancy people drink alcohol a lot which might cause fetal alcohol syndrome. People are born with a small head, flat face and nose bridge in the most common features. They tend to be hyperactive and have hard time in socializing.
  2. Spinal bifida: It is caused lack of folic acid. People with Spinal Bifida usually have such problems as mental and social. In addition, they have hard time with walking, going somewhere and latex allergy, obesity, skin breakdown, depression.

2.2 Give 2 examples of causes of intellectual disability that occur during or immediately following birth and describe 2 main characteristics of the effects.

Example 1: Trauma

Source: Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp. (2010-2013). The Merck Manual, Home Health Handbook, retrieved from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/childrens_health_issues/problems_in_newborns/birth_injury.html

Main Characteristics:

  1. Head and brain injury: Swelling of the scalp and bruising may occur due to birth trauma. Bleeding between the periosteum and skull causes hematoma, usually in the parietal region and sometimes the occipital region.
  2. Nerve Injury: when forceps used to assist delivery puts much pressure on the facial nerve, weakness on one side of the face results. This injury becomes evident when the newborn baby cries and the face appears to be asymmetric.

Example2: Premature birth and low birth weight.

Source: UCSF Children’s Hospital at UCSF Medical Center. 2004. Intensive Care Nursery House Manual, retrieved from: http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/pdf/manuals/20_VLBW_ELBW.pdf

Main Characteristics:

  1. Hypothermia: Low birth weight infants have a greater body surface area. Thus, a decrease stores of brown fat and glycogen which results to an inability to conserve or generate body heat.
  2. Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS): Respiratory problems due to a lack in surfactant and apnea of prematurity

2.3 Give 2 examples of causes of intellectual disability that occur during childhood years and describe the impact on the day-to-day support needs of the person.

Example 1: Brain Tumor

Source: PMC: US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. January 2008. “Caring for the Brain Tumor Patient: Family caregiver burden and unmet needs.”, retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2600839/


Patients with brain tumor need various supports in their day to day lives. Psychosocial support is one of them. It is important for them to learn how to handle the stress of a chronic illness, as family members realize that their lives will be forever changed by the uncertainty that surrounds this diagnosis. It is therefore important for the support provider to make sure the patient and family understands the impact of this illness to them and provide them of ways on how to cope and possibly live a close to normal life. Also, for the caregivers, it is important that they are always prepared for the possibility of disease progression. Even though a patient is stable for a certain period of time, the caregiver will always feel the wear and tear of caring for this patient. Thus, it is important to make sure that caregivers are also taken cared of to ensure quality care.

Example 2: Meningitis

Source: Kelli de la Rocha (2014). Intellectual disability. NYU Langone medical center. retrieved from: http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/intellectual-disability#


Children with intellectual disability caused by meningitis can’t learn skills and any knowledge as fast as other children with same age. So supporters need to wait for their achievement with patient. And also they need to be aware of the risk that the children experience seizure, and then they should be trained for coping with them suffering seizure.

Outcome 3: Describe conditions frequently associated with intellectual disability.


Condition 1: Cerebral Palsy


Cerebral Palsy can be caused by having injury of brain before brain development is completed. Usually brain develops within 2 years after birth, so Cerebral Palsy can be occurred during prenatal or infant period. And birth complication can also cause this condition. But many cases get this condition from unknown causes before birth.

Main characteristic 1:

Cerebral Palsy is characterized by motor function impairment. It causes activity limitation.

Main characteristic 2:

People with Cerebral Palsy exhibit cognitive and sensory impairments.

Physical support:

People with Cerebral Palsy suffer from hypotonic and rigidity. So physical therapy is useful to support them physically. Effective physical therapy can help them to improve their muscle. Recent studies report that intensive exercise is effective. So support worker can make a schedule for resistive exercise four times per week.

Social support:

People with Cerebral Palsy can be easily isolated because of their handicaps. So support workers need to reduce barriers to participation in activities of school, work and society. To participate in activities, many devices are necessary. If the client can’t walk, using wheelchair could be helpful to go watching football games and cheer a team.

Cognitive support:

People with Cerebral Palsy can be normal intellectually, but they have difficulty in learning because of limitation of hearing, seeing, and movement. So for supporting them cognitively, support worker needs to help their study by give them enough time to understand and express or adjust knowledge. And support worker can provide some aids to improve their speech.

Source/s: Karen W. Krigger, M.D., M.ED., university of Louisville school of Medicine, Cerebral Palsy: An Overview, Kentucky Am Fam Physician. 2006 Jan 1; 73(1): 91-100, retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0101/p91.html

Condition 2: Prader-Willi Syndrome


Prader-Willi Syndrome is caused by genetic abnormality. They have the chromosome number 15 without genetic information that normally people have from the father. It is thought to occur entirely by chance.

Main characteristic 1:

People with Prader-Willi Syndrome have severe hypotonia. So their sucking is poor in their early infancy.

Main characteristic 2:

Obesity is commonly caused. This is a result of an excessive appetite, a permanent feeling of hunger, and hyperphagia or overeating, and a low calorific requirement which is due to low energy expenditure levels.

Physical support:

People with Prader-Willi Syndrome can’t control their eating because they always feel hunger. Furthermore, they can easily become obesity that causes many complications. To prevent them from being obesity, support workers need to give exercise outside where they can’t find food easily. They need regular and continual exercise, so it is important to make a schedule with various and interesting exercise to them.

Social support:

They should take daily food intake under supervision. Once people between 2 and 4 years old start to overeat, supervision will assist them to minimize food and prevent them from being obesity. Parents make sure that they can easily open refrigerators and cabinets containing food to eat. It is extremely necessary for them to have a well-balanced, low-calorie diet and regular exercise and should be maintained for all of the individual’s life.

Cognitive support:

People who have PWS usually suffer from controlling their emotions. It is helpful to use behavioral therapy which helps them with their emotions. Losing temple, stubbornness and obsessive compulsive behavior as well as obsession with food have to be coped with behavioral management programs using firm limit-setting strategies.

Source: Andres Martin, M.D, 1998, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Am J Psychiatry 1998; 155:1265-1273, retrieved from http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=173004

Condition 3: Autism


Autism, a kind of neurodevelopmental disorder is defined by their behavior. But it is caused from various kind of brain dysfunction that affects the ability to handle information. In many cases, there is a genetic component.

Main characteristic 1:

People who have autism have impairment in many areas of development. They have difficulty in reciprocal interaction and have learning disability.

Main characteristic 2:

People with autism have lack of social and communication skill. Their behavior is not typical, but many babies with autism have tendency to overly focus on certain object. They also have poor eye contact and lose interest in others easily.

Physical support:

They have difficulty with making balance, gait and delicate motor skill. To improve their muscle tone, support workers need to provide regular physical fitness besides it is also important to be provided properly when they exercise.

Social support:

Children with autism may have the high risk of peer rejection and social isolation. To improve social skill, it is necessary to establish the relationship with support worker. Support workers need to provide practice proper and positive answer as much more as possible in social group. That is why they can learn facial express and eye contact.

Cognitive support:

People with autism have cognitive impairment, so they can’t be aware of their needs and cope with their mood. It can cause anxiety. It needs for them to recognize their mood. For this reason, support workers can give enough opportunities to express and verbalize their mood and feeling for recognizing their mood.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health, 2011, A Parent’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder, retrieved from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/a-parents-guide-to-autism-spectrum-disorder/parent-guide-to-autism.pdf


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