Intellectual Disability

free essayIntellectual Disability (ID) is also known as mental retardation. However, the adoption of the latter definition faces social criticism legally and from civil groups due to associated bad publicity. ID includes the existence of cognitive and behavioral deficits in people and affects various life facets, such as learning, social interaction and personal well-being. As a result, academic stakeholders take extra care to assist people suffering this condition to overcome it and live normal lives. The understanding, classification and consideration of ID in education and society in general are initial steps.

Issues Related to Terminology, Law and Identification of ID

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine (2015), adopts the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) definition of ID as neurodevelopmental disorders that initiate at childhood and manifest as intellectual, conceptual, social and practical living difficulties. ID identification using the DSM -5 requires clinical certification of the following three characteristics as a perquisite: reduced intellectual functioning, reduced adaptive functioning and the existence of former characteristics from childhood. Reduced intellectual functioning is a deficit in reasoning, learning and remembering. On the other hand, reduced adaptive functioning is a hampered sociocultural development and inability to meet social obligations. To verify this, an IQ test is often administered and a score less than 70% signifies ID. Both teachers, Kidd and Kirk, had a positive grip of the contextual existence of ID in students. Kirk noted that “these students mostly have lower IQ’s and are much further behind. They often seem to forget information easily and struggle to retain instruction.”

Therefore, in learning environments, continuous monitoring establishes intellectual ability of students. According to French (2016), the Rosa’s Law embedded the replacement of mental retardation to ‘intellectual disability’ or ‘intellectually disabled’ in education, health and employment federal laws. None of the teachers was aware of these recent changes in the law. However, Kirk raised concerns about gaps and shortcomings of the former No Child Left Behind Act in dealing with students suffering ID. The teacher noted that there is a need to reduce branding and support the students’ life skills.

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Classification of Students with ID

According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine (2015), classification of students with ID depends on their performances during IQ test. There are four levels of ID severity, namely mild, moderate, severe and profound. Using three criteria, the characteristics of each level is discussed. The mild category makes the largest number of students with ID (85%). The IQ range is 50-69% after the test. Mild category students require minimum guidance, though support is advised through transitions, which are often troublesome for them. The subsequent group is composed of students with moderate ID severity. It is the second largest category at 10% with an IQ ranges between 36 and 49. These people are able to live independently with minimum support. Academically, mild and moderate groups are slow learners in conceptual development and life skills. Nonetheless, with special guidance, the students can learn basic and practical academic and life skills.

Individuals suffering severe ID make 3.5% with IQ values 20-35. Such people need extensive support in relation to their daily and safety activities. This category experiences extended delay in development. As such, people can listen to speech but exhibit limited communication. Thus, they require constant family support in life. Finally, profound IQ severity requires a 24 hour support mechanism in almost all life habits. This group is the smallest and represents 1.5% of population. It is the most severe category. Profound members cannot live independently, have very limited communication skills and other forms of physical disability (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine 2015). According to French (2016), the use of these categories should be limited. Individual assessment is conducted due to possible negative effects on the affected person and the family. Socially, ID branding and use of term ‘mental retardation’ have devastating effects on the patients. Both teachers acknowledged the existence of ID levels. Kirk managed to outline the two categories, including description and characteristics. Nonetheless, Kirk did not believe in the power of IQ tests to determine ID. On the other hand, Kidd alluded to partial description of the categories.

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Impact of Characteristics of ID on Learning, Social Attitudes, and Curricular Needs

Teacher Kidd suggests that ID makes students slow learners of new skills and the situation becomes more challenging with complex skills. Therefore, the curricular should be refined to simple instructions. The language should be simplified, especially where the students have difficulty remembering verbal instructions. At the same time, visually appealing materials can also be incorporated. These materials allow students having extra training opportunities. The views expressed are in line with observations from Ford (2013). According to the scholar (2013), differentiated instructions are ideal where the students receive clarification for concepts. In this case, assessments are used as teaching tools and critical thinking as a lesson goal. Differentiated instructions involve teaching students with ID and students with learning deficiencies, also known as student at risk, to achieve standard results in a normal classroom setting. Kirk notes that achieving standard results greatly depends on praise and tactical management of failure. Encouraging the child helps build on their strengths and confidence to learn. The development of new skill is anchored on perquisites, hence the need to break down tasks.

The teachers agree that students with ID need positive relationships just like other people. Teacher Kirk posits that people view individuals with ID differently. Equally, people with ID have difficulties in understanding the thoughts of other people or, otherwise, in maneuvering negative thinking. In general, the society needs to understand that there are things students with ID can or cannot do depending on their existing abilities. Communication, which is a mixture of listening, talking and writing, is the initial social cure. Ford (2013) argues that the family and the environment play an important role in development of daily self-care activities, such as showering or taking a bus. Kidd adds that within the school environment, the students should be educated to acknowledge the situation of their classmates suffering ID. The best learning environment is with peers than isolated training that boosts stigmatization. However, additional specialized effort is recommended.

According to Ford (2013), social justice is expressed as care, respect, empathy and direct management of practices that cause exclusion of these students. Therefore, from a legal point, schools should provide the least restrictive environment. In other words, students should learn in an inclusive environment that acknowledges their independent abilities. As such, students are assigned a pedagogical style that befits their situation. Ford (2013) recommends a curriculum that integrates differentiated instruction, co-teaching, peer instruction and use of interventions.

How It Works


Social and academic learning requires understanding of thematic issues on ID. Special educators are more knowledgeable on the area than the regular ones. However, the interactions with the teachers indicate key discoveries. The normal learning environment is ideal in influencing cognitive development and the curriculum should be customized to capture the needs of every individual student. The academic environment provides an avenue for regular and special educators to work together to improve the well-being of the students. It is a positive step in managing stigmatization. Inclusive teaching ensures that students obtain additional support in areas of difficulty. Consequently, time should be strategically divided between the general and special educators.

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