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Did you know that March is National Disability Awareness Month, and this is a great time to be a force for change. March 1, 2014 starts “Disability Awareness Month, wear a silver ribbon or post a ribbon somewhere to show your pledge for awareness surrounding developmental and intellectual disabilities.
The History of Disability Awareness Month
In 1987 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” Intellectual disability is a disability that occurs before age 18. People with this disability experience significant limitations in two main areas: 1) intellectual functioning and 2) adaptive behavior. These limitations are expressed in the person’s conceptual, social and practical everyday living skills. A number of people with intellectual disability are mildly affected, making the disability difficult to recognize without visual cues. Many school age children receive a diagnosis of learning disability, developmental delay, behavior disorder, or autism instead of intellectual disability. An estimated 4.6 million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability (Larson, 2000).
What causes an Intellectual Disability?
Doctors have found many causes of intellectual disabilities (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, 2011). The most common are:
- Genetic conditions. Sometimes an intellectual disability is caused by abnormal genes inherited from parents, errors when genes combine, or other reasons. Examples of genetic conditions are Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and phenylketonuria (PKU).
- Problems during pregnancy. An intellectual disability can result when the baby does not develop inside the mother properly. For example, there may be a problem with the way the baby’s cells divide as it grows. A woman who drinks alcohol or gets an infection like rubella during pregnancy may also have a baby with an intellectual disability.
- Problems at birth. If a baby has problems during labor and birth, such as not getting enough oxygen, he or she may have an intellectual disability.
- Health problems. Diseases like whooping cough, the measles, or meningitis can cause intellectual disabilities. They can also be caused by extreme malnutrition (not eating right), not getting enough medical care, or by being exposed to poisons like lead or mercury.
- sitting, walking, or crawling later than other children;
- learning to talk later, or having trouble speaking,
- finding it hard to remember things,
- having trouble understanding social rules,
- having trouble seeing the consequences of their actions,
- having trouble solving problems, and/or
- having trouble thinking logically.
Disclaimer: Some children are late bloomers and do not necessarily have a disability, they just need more time. So, do take the time to observe your child’s actions and attempt to teach them some of the things yourself and watch their responsiveness and ability to implement your teachings. However, a medical opinion is important if you are still worried.
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. 2011. Intellectual Disability. Available online at http://nichcy.org/disability/specific/intellectual#def
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. (2005). Intellectual disability. Available online at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/IntellectualDisability.pdf
- The Arc. (2009). Introduction to intellectual disabilities. Available online at: http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2448
- U.S. Department of Education. (2010). 29th annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2007 (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: Autor. Available online at:http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/index.html