Intellectual disability

Intellectual disability, a lifelong condition, not an illness

Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disorder in the general population. In Quebec, it is estimated that approximately 82,000 people (2014 data) have an intellectual disability, which represents nearly 1% of the population.

Intellectual disability is a lifelong condition, not a disease. It is not a temporary illness that a person “gets”. It is a permanent fact of life.

Three equally important criteria have to be met to make a diagnosis of intellectual deficiency:

  • Significant limitations in intellectual functioning; for example, when the person has trouble understanding abstract concepts or anticipating the consequences of an action.
  • Limitations in adaptive behaviour that may result in shortcomings with respect to conceptual, social and practical skills:
    • the use of money-related concepts;
    • social interactions;
    • performing daily and personal care activities (meals, household tasks, transportation, dressing, etc.).
  • These limitations must be observed before the age of 18.

Only specialists who are members of a professional association (psychologists and neuropsychologists) can diagnose an intellectual disability, using recognized standardized tests and based on current standards of practice.

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