What Is The Mental Age Of A Person With Intellectual Disability?

11 Jan 2022
Unearth what is the mental age of a person with intellectual disability, exploring causes, implications, and daily life impacts.

Understanding Intellectual Disability

When discussing the mental age of a person with an intellectual disability, it's crucial to first understand what intellectual disability entails.

Definition and Criteria

Intellectual disability, often abbreviated as ID, is a term used to describe a variety of conditions characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. This disability originates before the age of 18 and affects multiple areas of life, including conceptual, social, and practical skills.

According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), an IQ test score of around 70 or as high as 75 indicates a significant limitation in intellectual functioning, which is a defining criterion for intellectual disability. However, a diagnosis of intellectual disability is not solely based on IQ scores. It also takes into account the individual's level of adaptive function, which is measured using individually administered standardized tests.

Prevalence and Causes

Intellectual disability is a global concern, with an estimated 2.5% of the global population having low levels of intellectual functioning commensurate with ID [2]. The reported prevalence globally is around 1%, varying from 1% to 3% by country, with a male to female ratio of 2:1 [1].

The causes of intellectual disability are diverse. Genetic abnormalities, inborn errors of metabolism, and brain malformations are major categories of causes identified in severe to profound intellectual disability. However, the etiology, severity, cognitive abilities, and adaptive function vary among individuals with intellectual disability, necessitating consideration in the development of a treatment plan [1].

Understanding intellectual disability is the first step to answering the question, "What is the mental age of a person with intellectual disability?". As we delve deeper into this topic, we shall explore the concepts of mental age and intellectual functioning, the different testing methods, and the daily life implications of living with an intellectual disability.

Measuring Intellectual Functioning

In order to determine the mental age of a person with an intellectual disability, professionals often turn to a variety of tests that measure intellectual functioning. These tests are used to evaluate an individual's cognitive abilities, including their reasoning, problem-solving, memory, and attention skills.

IQ Testing

IQ, short for Intelligence Quotient, is a standardized measure used to assess a person's general cognitive abilities. An IQ test score of around 70 or as high as 75 is generally considered indicative of a significant limitation in intellectual functioning, a defining criterion for intellectual disability according to the AAIDD.

IQ tests often include various subtests that assess different aspects of cognitive functioning, offering a comprehensive picture of an individual's intellectual capabilities. However, it's important to note that these tests are not the sole determinants of a person's abilities and should be used in conjunction with other forms of assessment.

Age-Specific Tests

Different IQ tests are tailored for different age groups. They all measure similar cognitive abilities, but the questions and tasks are age-appropriate.

  1. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) is administered to children ages 6 to 16, assessing verbal skills and spatial (performance) skills MentalHelp.net.
  2. The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence is for children aged 3 to 7 years. It's not suitable for individuals with severe intellectual disabilities MentalHelp.net.
  3. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is designed for individuals over sixteen years of age, with more challenging questions compared to the WISC MentalHelp.net.

These age-specific tests are used to determine a person's mental age, a concept that was first introduced by Alfred Binet, the co-creator of the first IQ tests in the early twentieth century. The mental age is compared with the average performance of their same-age peers or by comparing their demonstrated physical, speech, adaptive, or cognitive skills against the average of various age groups Disability Wisdom.

However, it's important to remember that the concept of mental age has its limitations and criticisms. It oversimplifies a person's intellectual functioning by reducing it to a single number and fails to acknowledge the complexity of the individual. It also doesn't account for the varying skills and knowledge across different areas of a person's life, or the possibility for growth and development that may exceed perceived mental age limitations Disability Wisdom.

The Concept of Mental Age

The concept of mental age is often invoked when discussing intellectual disabilities. However, it's crucial to understand its history, criticisms, limitations, and misconceptions to provide a nuanced perspective on intellectual disability.

History and Criticism

The theory of "mental age" was first introduced by Alfred Binet, co-creator of the first IQ tests, in the early twentieth century. It was used to measure an individual's intellectual and developmental functioning by comparing their score on a standardized IQ test with the average performance of their same-age peers, or by comparing their demonstrated physical, speech, adaptive, or cognitive skills against the average of various age groups [3].

This theory has a disturbing history as it led to the categorization and labeling of individuals with intellectual disabilities based on their mental age. Labels such as "morons" for those with a mental age of 9-12 years, "imbeciles" for those with a mental age of 6-8 years, and "idiots" for those with a mental age of 2-5 years were used. This led to the belief that they were unfit to reproduce.

Limitations and Misconceptions

The concept of mental age oversimplifies an individual's intellectual, developmental, and adaptive functioning by reducing it to a single number. This obscures the complexity of the person and fails to account for variations in skills and knowledge across different areas of a person's life, as well as the potential for compensatory skills and different types of intelligence that may not be captured by standardized tests.

A common misconception is that the mental age of a person with intellectual disabilities is a static ceiling that they cannot exceed, unlike chronological age, which allows for growth and development. In reality, there are cases where individuals with severe communication impairments made significant progress in communication skills when provided with appropriate support and technology, indicating the potential for growth regardless of perceived mental age limitations.

Mental age labels are often used to control freedoms and support services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, leading to the denial of certain freedoms based on presumed mental age. This can result in infantilization, undermining autonomy, and exposing individuals to exploitation or abuse due to a lack of education on age-appropriate topics [3].

Understanding these limitations and misconceptions is critical when discussing the mental age of a person with intellectual disability. It's essential to recognize that these individuals have the capacity for growth and development, and deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Intellectual Disabilities and Comorbidities

People living with intellectual disabilities often experience additional health challenges, referred to as comorbidities. These conditions can include psychiatric disorders and various medical conditions.

Psychiatric Disorders

Psychiatric disorders are notably prevalent among individuals with intellectual disabilities. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, people with intellectual disabilities are 3-5 times more likely to have a psychiatric disorder compared to the general population, regardless of age. The cumulative prevalence of psychiatric disorders within this group is around 40%.

These psychiatric manifestations often start subtly and are presented in atypical ways. As a result, they are commonly misunderstood as merely being a part of the spectrum of intellectual disability symptoms. It's therefore crucial for caregivers and healthcare providers to be aware of these possible comorbidities to ensure individuals with intellectual disabilities receive the appropriate treatment and support they need.

Medical Conditions

In addition to psychiatric disorders, individuals with intellectual disabilities frequently have associated medical comorbidities. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, these can include:

These medical conditions often require additional healthcare support and can significantly impact an individual's quality of life and daily functioning. It's important that healthcare providers, caregivers, and those with intellectual disabilities themselves are aware of these potential health complications. This knowledge can help ensure that individuals receive timely and appropriate healthcare interventions, which can greatly improve their overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Intellectual Disability and Daily Life

The daily life of a person with intellectual disability (ID) can be influenced by various factors, including their functional skills and the support and accommodation they receive.

Functional Skills

Functional skills are abilities necessary for independent living, such as communication, self-care, socialization, and other aspects of daily life. For individuals with intellectual disability, these skills, also referred to as adaptive function, are particularly important.

People with ID may face challenges in developing these functional skills without support. However, with appropriate assistance, they can learn and improve these abilities, enhancing their independence and quality of life.

Support services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral interventions, can play a crucial role in helping individuals with intellectual disability develop and improve their functional skills [1].

Support and Accommodation

Support and accommodation are essential for people with intellectual disability to participate fully in daily life. This can encompass various aspects, including education, employment, and community engagement.

Appropriate support can range from individualized learning plans in an educational setting to job coaching in the workplace. Accommodations may include modifications to the environment or tasks to enable individuals with ID to participate more effectively.

The provision of these support and accommodation measures can enable individuals with intellectual disability to lead fulfilling lives, participate in their communities, and reach their potential. It's important to recognize and respect the individual strengths and abilities of people with intellectual disability, and provide them with opportunities for growth and development in areas that are meaningful to them [1].

In conclusion, the functional skills of a person with intellectual disability and the support they receive can significantly influence their daily life and overall well-being. As such, efforts should be made to provide appropriate support and accommodation to individuals with ID, enabling them to lead fulfilling lives and participate meaningfully in their communities.

References

[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082244/

[2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6345136/

[3]: https://www.disabilitywisdom.com/2018/12/21/whats-my-age-again-why-mental-age-theory-hurts-people-with-intellectual-and-developmental-disabilities/

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