Mental Disability: Definition And Types

Mental Disability: Definition and Types

People with a  mental disability have less or less developed cognitive resources than is normal for their age. It makes learning more difficult for them and often makes communication a chore. This often applies to specific contexts and certain types of messages. The type of delay is usually determined before the age of 18.

About 1% of the world population has a mental disability. However, it is important to keep in mind that  this is not a psychological disorder, but a developmental one. In fact, all people with these types of disorders are just like everyone else. They usually have their own dreams, interests, tastes and preferences. So we should not stigmatize people with a mental disability! There is therefore no better way to avoid stigma than by learning about the subject.

Intellectual functioning and adaptability

A mental disability can be associated with other abnormalities in a person’s  physical and mental health. These can then affect other parts of a person’s well-being.

Some syndromes that often involve mental disability are: Rett syndrome, Dravet syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and fragile X syndrome. Conditions such as obesity, diabetes, HIV, STDs and dementia are also more commonly seen in people with this type of disability.

In addition, the communication skills, interaction skills and social participation of such individuals are affected. Their limited intellectual abilities and adaptability may in some cases make it impossible for such a person to participate in community life. It affects all their environments: home, school, work but also leisure.

Child looking out the window

The role of the IQ in a mental disability

A person’s intelligence quotient, or IQ, alone is not enough to diagnose mental retardation. In addition to establishing one’s IQ, it is necessary to set up  a more in-depth assessment. This extends beyond just a numerical score.

Previously, IQ encompassed the relationship between a person’s mental age and chronological age. The first of these involved the intellectual development of such a person. This involved how they performed intellectually compared to his average peers. Chronological age concerned a person’s actual age.

Nowadays, it’s about where someone moves on the spectrum, with 100 representing the established average. Someone with an IQ of 70 or less has a mental disability on this basis. Above the other extreme, a score of 130, someone is seen as gifted. An IQ score also helps to classify the degree of someone’s disadvantage.

Types of mental disabilities

According to the DSM 5, these arrears can be classified into a number of categories. You have mild, moderate, severe and profound dementia.

Mild Dementia (IQ of 50 – 70)

About 75% of people with mental disabilities have a mild form of this.

  • Conceptual domain:  Slightly impaired abstract thinking, practical abilities, cognitive flexibility, and short-term memory.
  • Social domain:  immature social interactions, which makes them vulnerable to manipulation.
  • Practical domain:  often need some degree of supervision and assistance while performing everyday tasks. This help is especially important in stressful situations.
  • They often resemble their peers in behavior until they get older. Then their limitation becomes clear, because mentally they are a bit behind.

Moderate dementia (IQ of 35 – 50)

This group includes 18% of people with a mental disability.

  • Conceptual domain:  continuous need for assistance to perform daily activities. Sometimes it is even necessary for other people to take over some of their responsibilities. Under minimal supervision, they are perfectly capable of learning to take care of themselves. They can practice jobs with or without specific professional requirements, but only under supervision.
  • Social domain:  During verbal communication, their language use is less extensive and complex than that of people without delay. This means they won’t always notice some subtle social details. As a result, they may have difficulty developing new relationships.
  • Practical domain:  with support and comprehensive instruction, they can develop certain skills.
Mental disability in father and daughter

Severe dementia (IQ of 20 – 35)

This category includes about 7% of the people.

  • Conceptual domain:  severely limited, especially with regard to numerical concepts. They need almost continuous support in many areas.
  • Social domain:  Their ability for verbal communication is comparable to that of a child under 7. They communicate in a simple way and are only concerned with the present. There is no thinking back to the past, nor planning ahead.
  • Practical domain:  in principle, these people should be continuously supervised. This also applies to performing everyday tasks.

profound mental retardation (IQ under 20)

About 1% of people with a mental disability fall into this category. It is usually associated with an identifiable neurological disorder.

  • Conceptual domain:  obviously limited. These people only think of the physical and non-symbolic processes. With a lot of help, they can learn certain skills, such as pointing. Motor and sensory disturbances that often accompany this also make it difficult to use certain objects correctly.
  • Social domain:  uncertain understanding of verbal and non-verbal (gesture-based) communication. They express themselves in very basic, simple and often non-verbal ways.
  • Practical domain:  they are continuously dependent on others. Depending on whether or not they have motor or sensory limitations, they can still participate in basic activities.

So we need the support of the masses if we want to create a more accessible environment for people with mental disabilities. Otherwise, today’s restrictive environments will only add to the difficulties they already face on a daily basis.

In any case, we must never forget that the person is always more important than the disability. People with disabilities also have feelings, dreams and something to contribute, just like everyone else.

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