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Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability (formerly referred to as “mental retardation”) is a condition that most people are at least somewhat familiar with, but there are many different levels of severity. Depending on how severe the mental retardation is, a person might not be able to work, or they might be severely limited in their ability to work. People who have loved ones with mental retardation will likely need to help their family member or other loved one get the disability benefits that they need if they are unable to work because of their condition. Children with mental retardation also often qualify for benefits. Finding the necessary legal help should be at the forefront of a caregiver’s mind when they’re seeking out ways to help their loved one receive the financial assistance that they need.

What is Intellectual Disability?

Mental retardation was the medical term for a condition that affects some people’s cognitive abilities. The more popular term today is intellectual disability, which is also the term that the Social Security Administration uses when classifying this disability. This condition is fairly common, affecting approximately three million Americans every year.

In order for someone be diagnosed with an intellectual disability, they have to score two standard deviations below the the population’s average. This translates to an IQ score of 70 or below.

There are several levels of mental retardation that the Social Security Administration and health care professionals use to help classify the degrees of limitation that someone with an intellectual disability might have. A person could be classified as having mild, moderate, severe, or profound levels of intellectual disabilities. Additionally, most people who are diagnosed as having an intellectual disability are also classified as having a mild case.

The prevalence of intellectual disability isn’t evenly distributed between countries or even within the U.S. For instance, the prevalence rate in developed countries is usually lower than what it is in underdeveloped countries because there’s a positive correlation between poverty and intellectual disabilities. Similarly, intellectual disabilities are more prevalent in U.S. African American and Hispanic populations than they are in Caucasian U.S. populations because of a higher rate of poverty in African American and Hispanic populations.

Although there are some cases where the cause of an intellectual disability is identifiable, such as Down Syndrome or low birth weight, with many cases, there isn’t a clear factor that caused the intellectual disability.

Symptoms of Intellectual Disability

One of the primary symptoms of mental retardation is lower cognitive functioning. How this will show itself will depend on the age of the person and what level of mental retardation the person is at. In young children, one of the signs that the child has intellectual differences is being late in walking, rolling over, talking, toilet training, feeding oneself, and other major milestones. Older children might have difficulties remembering things or connecting actions with consequences.

In adults, difficulties remembering things, concentrating, interacting socially, and lowered self-esteem are all consequences of mental retardation. Because of their difficulties with many skills, people will intellectual differences also have difficulties finding employment and often can’t live on their own because they need supervision.

The way that symptoms present themselves will also vary according to the level of intellectual disability. For instance, an adult with profound mental retardation won’t be able to manage themselves enough to use the toilet and will rely on others for feeding and other life necessities. But an adult with a mild intellectual disability is more likely able to do basic self-care tasks but be very behind in reading and math skills.

The way that the symptoms are classified also takes into account the age of the person with the disability. For instance, a baby who is late in feeding himself is only slightly outside the normal range, but a seven-year-old who can’t feed himself is far outside of the range of normal.

Treatments for Intellectual Disability

There isn’t a cure for mental retardation, but there are training programs and socialization techniques that doctors, educators, and loved ones can engage the person with intellectual disabilities in to help prepare them for work and life in general. The exact treatment that they receive will be partially dependent on the level of their intellectual disabilities, type of intellectual disability, and age.

For example, a person with mild or moderate mental retardation can often still learn how to read and do basic math but will never keep up with their peers. In contrast, the training for someone who has severe mental retardation might focus more on completing motor skills activities and basic self-care tasks.

School-age children will receive education through the school system, but they might also receive training through a mental health expert. Some technical colleges also offer training programs for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities to better prepare them for working in retail jobs and some other types of workspaces.

People with intellectual disabilities also need to engage in physical activity to stay physically healthy. Some activities that are commonly suggested include walking and jogging, riding a stationary bike, and certain types of dance. But there are many other physical activities that people with intellectual disabilities can do depending on their interests and ability levels.

Disability Benefits for Intellectual Disability

When determining whether or not a loved one will be eligible for disability benefits for their intellectual disability, one of the first things that a guardian needs to understand is that there are different criteria and processes, and the one that your loved one has to meet will depend on if they’re a child or working-age adult.

Children with intellectual disabilities can qualify for Social Security disability benefits if they meet certain criteria. It must be determined that the child has deficits that are pronounced enough that they severely limit their ability to function. They must also have an IQ of 70 or lower and have deficits that make it difficult to interact socially, manage themselves, concentrate, or comprehend. information. Additionally, children who have impairments that are so severe that they’re unable to take the test and rely on others for things like eating, bathing, going to the bathroom, and dressing will automatically qualify.

The listing for adults with mental retardation is very similar, but slightly different benefits are paid out to applicants. For both children and adults with intellectual disabilities, in order to qualify, the symptoms that the applicant is experiencing must last for at least 12 months.

To get Social Security benefits, the applicant’s legal guardians must work with a doctor or several doctors to build the evidence for a claim. If the child or adult with mental retardation doesn’t specifically meet the listing, their guardian can also help the claimant apply for disability benefits by taking a residual functional capacity test.

How We Can Help

There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…

If you are facing one of these situations due to an Intellectual Disability, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.

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    Learn More

    Learn more about Social Security Disability and Long Term Disability Insurance, as well as appealing denials and how an attorney can help. These resources will cover the basics: