What is an Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disabilities occur before age 18. Individuals with intellectual disabilities experience limitations in two main areas: intellectual functioning & adaptive behavior. These limitations effect the person’s everyday activities and social and conceptual skills. Many people with intellectual disabilities are mildly affected; making the disability hard to notice with visual cues alone. Intellectual disability is diagnosed through standardized tests of intelligence and adaptive behavior. Many children receive a diagnosis of learning disability, developmental delay, behavior disorder, or autism rather than diagnosing the intellectual disability. This makes it challenging to determine how many individuals truly have intellectual disabilities. With support from family, friends and agencies including The Arc, over time many adults with intellectual disabilities can live independent, dynamic lives in their community.

What is a Developmental Disability (DD)?

According to the Developmental Disabilities Act, the term developmental disability is defined as a severe, chronic disability that:

  • is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments;
  • occurs before the individual reaches the age of 22;
  • is likely to continue indefinitely;
  • results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity (i) self-care, (ii) receptive and expressive language, (iii) learning, (iv) mobility, (v) self-determination, (vi) capacity for independent living, and (vii) economic self-sufficiency; and
  • reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are a lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated.
What is the Difference Between Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities?

The major differences are in the age of onset, the severity of limitations, and the fact that the developmental disability definitions do rely on an IQ requirement. Many individuals with an intellectual disability also fit in the developmental disability definition, however they will not meet the functional limitation requirement.

All families can expect fair and humane treatment.

Often the The AWC will receive intakes or inquiries from families in the community when their child may not be eligible for our individual advocacy services. We strive to treat every individual with the highest level of respect and provide the best resources and referrals possible.

Additional Information

Changes to Colorado Rules Regarding Definition of Developmental Disabilities

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