Pediatric Intellectual Disability

Kids with intellectual disabilities learn or develop more slowly than other children their age.

At Children’s Health℠, we provide personalized care for kids with these conditions to help them live their best lives. We start with a thorough evaluation of your child, so we can understand exactly where they struggle and what they need. Then we connect you with experts who can support your child, including educational specialists, speech-language pathologists and psychiatrists.

What is a Pediatric Intellectual Disability?

An intellectual disability is a condition that causes a child to learn or grow more slowly than other kids their age. It may take longer for a child with an intellectual disability to learn to speak, walk or perform daily tasks.

What are the signs and symptoms of a Pediatric Intellectual Disability?

An intellectual disability can be mild, moderate or severe. According to the National Institutes of Health, the signs and symptoms include:

  • Sitting up, crawling or walking later than other children of similar age
  • Learning to talk later or having difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty remembering information
  • Trouble understanding the rules of social behavior
  • Struggling to understand the outcomes of actions
  • Difficulty solving problems

How is a Pediatric Intellectual Disability diagnosed?

Our first goal is to investigate and better understand what is causing an intellectual disability. We might use the following tools for diagnosis:

  • Genetic testing: A simple blood test that shows us if an intellectual disability is caused by a genetic problem or trait.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test uses electrodes (tiny stainless-steel discs made) on the scalp to see if electrical activity in the brain might be causing intellectual disability.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This is an imaging test that can help doctors see differences in the brain that might cause intellectual disability.
  • Psychometric tests: These tests include activities, assessments and observations to better understand your child’s skills, knowledge and personality traits.

What causes a Pediatric Intellectual Disability?

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes intellectual disabilities. Studies suggest many factors play a role, including:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental problems (such as exposure to lead paint)
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (if the child was exposed to drugs or alcohol in the womb)
  • If a woman experienced severe trauma (like a car accident) while she was pregnant

How is a Pediatric Intellectual Disability treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for an intellectual disability. But the experts at Children’s Health offer a wide variety of tools and therapies that can help your child go on to a fulfilling life. Guided by your child’s pediatrician, the following specialists will work together to help your child and your family:

  • Neurodevelopmental delay (NDD): These specialists have deep experience in understanding how a child’s brain works and recommending strategies that can help kids manage intellectual disabilities.
  • Educational specialists: Depending on the severity of their intellectual disability, children may learn more slowly than other kids their age or need to be enrolled in special education classes. Our educational specialists can help identify your child’s learning challenges, and work with schools to be sure your child gets the support they need.
  • Speech-language: Some kids with intellectual disability have trouble speaking. Our speech-language pathologists work with these kids, one syllable at a time, to help them express what they’re thinking and feeling.
  • Psychiatrists: It’s common for a child with an intellectual disability to have a psychiatric disorder (such as depression or anxiety). A psychiatrist can provide talk therapy or medication to help manage these conditions and improve your child’s mental health.

Pediatric Intellectual Disability Doctors and Providers

We have pediatricians, neurologists, educational specialists, speech-language pathologists and psychiatrists who can provide compassionate, expert care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will my child grow out of their intellectual disability?

    No. An intellectual disability is a lifelong condition, but getting support early in a child’s life can help them reach their full potential. Our pediatricians, neurologists, educational specialists, speech-language pathologists and psychiatrists work together to develop a treatment plan to meet each child’s unique needs.

  • How can I help my child with their intellectual disability?

    Getting expert child care, as early as possible, is a key way to help kids with intellectual disabilities. Working with doctors like those at Children’s Health offers kids a supportive, holistic approach to navigating an intellectual disability. This could include anything from getting your child hearing aids, to working with psychologists to help lessen the frequency and intensity of tantrums, to connecting parents with family support groups.