Intellectual disability causes include genetic disorders, infections and other physical traumas. The following article will discuss some facts that will help you understand more about intellectual disability.
The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) defines intellectual disability as the disability that occurs before the age of 18 years. This disability causes limitations in intellectual ability, functioning and adaptive behavior of a person. These limitations include conceptual skills, practical adaptive skills, and social skills.
There are standard tests that help determine if a person or a child is suffering from intellectual disability. The most important test that helps determine intellectual disability is the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test. Those with an IQ of 70 or below with limitations in one area of adaptive behavior are said to be suffering from this disability. This brings us to intellectual disability. What are the causes that lead to intellectual impairments? Let’s have a look at these causes in detail, in the following paragraphs.
Causes of Intellectual Disability
The causes of intellectual disability include conditions that occur before birth, during birth or after birth, during childhood years. These conditions lead to impaired development of the brain. There are many known causes of this brain development impairment. However, one third of the people are affected with this disability due to unknown reasons. The causes are divided into the following categories:
One of the common causes of intellectual disabilities is abnormal genes inherited by the child from his parents. Any error in the coding like addition or deletion due to an infection during pregnancy, exposure to radiation, etc., can lead to intellectual disabilities. Missing or defective enzymes, chromosomal glitches, gene disorders, etc., can cause this mental disability. The most common genetic conditions that lead to intellectual disabilities include –
- Down syndrome
- Fragile X syndrome
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Williams syndrome
- Angelman syndrome
Toxic Chemical Abuse during Pregnancy
Use of toxic substances like smoking, alcohol, drugs (cocaine), teratogenic medications, etc., can lead to many fetal development issues. These substances affect the growth of the fetus and prevent brain development. This leads to highly underdeveloped mental abilities along with physical disabilities. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one of the most common causes of mental disability in children. Women who drink alcohol during their pregnancy term cause severe intellectual disabilities in their babies. Before one indulges in these addictions, think about the baby in the womb. It is the child who will pay for the mistakes made by the mother during pregnancy, for all of its life. These are preventable intellectual disabilities, and one should therefore abstain from smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs during pregnancy.
There are many infections that affect a pregnant woman. The brain development in the fetus begins about 3 weeks after fertilization. This is the time when it is highly susceptible to diseases. Infections like contracting rubella during the first trimester, may lead to intellectual disability in the child, along with other birth defects. Other infections like encephalitis, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, syphilis, etc., can lead to intellectual disabilities.
Exposure to environmental toxins can lead to mild or moderate to severe mental disabilities in the child. These include ingestion of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. Also, exposure to radiations like X-rays, chemicals, etc., can interfere with the brain development of the fetus.
Problems with Childbirth
Women who are malnourished mostly give birth to premature babies. These babies have low birth weight and may suffer from a number of health problems. During the birth process, the baby may suffer from temporary oxygen deprivation (anoxia) or other birth injuries due to use of forceps, prolonged or shortened labor, vacuum birth, etc. If the mother suffers from gonorrhea, or is given excessive painkillers at birth, given careless medical attention or remains unattended during labor, then it may cause intellectual disabilities in the baby. Children who are born breech or by other unconventional birth methods may also suffer from mild to severe intellectual disabilities.
Problems After Childbirth
As the baby starts growing, it may be susceptible to many illnesses. Infections such as whooping cough, measles, meningitis, encephalitis, malaria, mumps, allergies, etc., can lead to intellectual problems. Children who are physically, mentally and sexually abused show signs of decreased mental ability. Pollutions in the environment, domestic violence, accidental ingestion of poisons, malnutrition, etc., can also lead to decrease in mental ability. Acquired brain injuries due to traumatic brain injury, stroke, infections, and substance abuse, may lead to neurodegenerative disorders that impair their mental capability.
There is no specific or permanent intellectual disability treatment. These children are given special counseling along with their parents. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, special learning schools, etc., help these children overcome their disabilities to some extent. One should undergo genetic counseling before conceiving a child, especially if they have a family history of genetic disorders. One should abstain from substance abuse during pregnancy and make sure they do not take any medications without the advice of the doctor. Women should make sure they are immunized before they get pregnant. Vaccinations will reduce the chances of catching a devastating infection. Proper nutritional diet and regular antenatal checkups will help prevent intellectual disabilities.
This was all about the intellectual disability causes and treatment. Prevention is the only key in reducing the chances of intellectual disabilities in a child.