A general perspective on disability

Disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of the ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” (Barnes 1994:2)

Disability issue is approached from two perspectives:

1. Medical model 2. Social model
States that the difficulties of the persons with disabilities are generated by the biological and psychological inferiority. Developed by EU and UN - refers to the social environment, considered a generator of the difficulties of the persons with disabilities.

Currently, according to Romanian law, the disability concept falls under the following categories:

  • physical
  • visual
  • auditory
  • deafness
  • somatic
  • mental
  • psychological
  • associated
  • rare diseases

Social reality stimulates rethinking the disability concept, which from our perspective includes three main categories:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Intellectual

What is intellectual disability?

Intellectual disability is not a psychological or mental disease.

Intellectual disability is not contagious.

Using the term illness or disease is incorrect. Intellectual disability is a condition or a state of a person. It is not a contracted disease. Intellectual disability is a condition the baby is born with, or may appear as a consequence of an extreme health situation.

Intellectual disability is a term used to define the situation of a person with certain limitations on mental level and on communication, social and self-help skills. Children with such limitations learn and develop slower than normal children.

Children with intellectual disability need more time to learn to speak, walk or perform certain self-help functions as: dressing, undressing, feeding. Also, they may have learning difficulties in school. This doesn’t mean they can not learn, but it takes a longer time to do it.

What are the causes of intellectual disability?

In time, the physicians identified several causes for intellectual disability:

Genetic causes Problems during pregnancy
Sometimes the intellectual disability is caused by the existence of modified genes inherited from the parents, by genetic accidental errors occurred during fecundation, or other random causes. A classical example of genetic anomaly is Down Syndrome or Trisomia 21. Intellectual disability may appear when the fetus is not developing accordingly during the pregnancy. For example, it may appear as a result of a problem during cellular division, while he/she grows. Also, a pregnant woman who drinks alcohol is using drugs or contracts a contagious disease as smallpox may give birth to a child with intellectual disability.
Birth problems Health problems
In case the baby has problems during labour or at birth, like lack of oxygen, they can get an intellectual disability. Sicknesses like convulsive cough, syphilis, or improper treatment of meningitis may generate intellectual disability. At the same time, intellectual disability may be caused by extreme malnutrition, poor medical or affective care or exposure to toxic substances as: mercury or lead.

Signs of intellectual disability

There are numerous signs of intellectual disability in children, many of them being very subtle. There are some of the most obvious signs:

1. standing, walking, sitting occur later
2. late spontaneous speaking, speaking difficulties
3. difficulties in understanding abstract concepts
4. difficulties in anticipating the consequences of an action
5. difficulties in fine motility

How is the intellectual disability diagnosed and evaluated

The intellectual disability is approached and diagnosed from two perspectives:

1. The capacity of the brain of a person to learn, think, solve problems and to understand the meaning of the world - IQ or intellectual functioning 2. The capacity of a person to live independently - adaptive behavior

Intellectual functioning or IQ is, normally, measured through a test called Intelligence Test or IQ Test. Children who score lower than 70 or 75 are included in the area of intellectual disability.

For measuring adaptive behavior, the specialists use the method of comparison with the scale of normal average. The benchmarks for adaptive behavior are:

  • day-to-day skills - dressing, using the toilet, self-help
  • communication skills, like understanding the message and capacity to respond
  • social interaction skills, with family members, adults or unknown persons

In order to diagnose intellectual disability, the specialists take into account the IQ and the adaptive behavior.

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