FAQ Sheet About Students with Mild Intellectual Disabilities

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Individuals with intellectual disabilities vary widely in the characteristics they exhibit.  Most students with mild intellectual disabilities appear very similar to others in school, except for the fact that they learn academic materials muh more slowly than others. The table below answers some frequently asked questions on identifying and assessing individuals with mild intellectual disabilities and describes possible outcomes of the condition.

Who are they? •  Students with mild intellectual disabilities have a measured IQ that is lower than 98% of the school-age population (i.e., below approximately 70).
  •  These students have adaptive behavior skills that are significantly below average. Adaptive behavior includes conceptual, social, and practical skills that people learn so that they can function in their everyday lives.
What are typical characteristics? •  Low achievement in all academic areas
  •  Deficits in memory and motivation
  •  Inattentive/distractible
  •  Poor social skills
  •  Deficits in adaptive behavior
What are the demographics? •  0.84% of school-age students (approximately 555,000) are labeled with intellectual disabilities.
  •  Approximately 470,000 students (0.71%) are labeled with mild intellectual disabilities.
  •  The percentage of the school-age population identified with intellectual disabilities declined by approximately 10% between 1990 and 2004.
Where are students educated? •  13% of students labeled with intellectual disabilities spend most of the day in general education classrooms, while 57% spend most of the school day segregated from typical peers.
  •  The proportion of students with intellectual disabilities who are educated in general education classrooms for most of the school day increased by approximately 72% between 1990 and 2003, while the proportion of students educated in separate settings for most of the school day declined by 19%.
How are students identified and assessed for intervention? •  Primary criteria for identification are significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
  •  A score of approximately 70 or below in an intelligence test is considered to be subaverage intellectual functioning.
  •  A standardized test of adaptive behavior is used to determine if the child has deficits in conceptual, social, and practical skills that are significantly subaverage.
  •  A standardized achievement test is used to determine if the child's educational performance is adversely affected (i.e., if the student's achievement is well below grade level).
What are the outcomes? •  Intellectual disabilities persist through the school years and into adulthood.
  •  Adults with mild intellectual disabilities are often employed in occupations with low status and low pay.
  •  Many students with mild intellectual disabilities continue to need support into adulthood in employment and independent living, although some of these students need no support.
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