Behavior Disorders

Intellectual Disability

An intellectual disability is described as impairment of general mental abilities that affect adaptive functioning in three specific areas: conceptual thinking skills, social skills, and practical self-care skills.  Individuals with an intellectual disability see the onset of these challenges during childhood.

What are characteristics of an intellectual disability?

The impact of an intellectual disability can be seen in three specific domains, or areas.

Conceptual domain:  This includes skills in language, reading, writing, math, reasoning, knowledge, and memory.

Social domain: This area consists of empathy, social judgment, interpersonal communication, and the ability to form and keep friendships.

Practical domain: This area refers to self-management such as personal care, job responsibilities, money management, recreation, and organizing school and work tasks.

Individuals with an intellectual disability range in severity which include mild, moderate, severe, or profound. Severity levels are typically defined by the level of adaptive functioning in each of the domains listed above.

How can treatment help?

Some children with intellectual disability struggle with various aspects of behavior. Behavior therapy can help address these challenges to foster improved social interactions, appropriate methods of responding to upset, and improved self-care skills. We utilize a team approach to evaluation and treatment, with speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists supporting the work of the behavior therapists. Parents, also regarded as agents of change, are included every step of the way, so that they have the skills to manage their child’s behavior at home and in the community.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.

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The key to effective treatment is an early response.
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