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Intellectual disability is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills. These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child.
Intellectual disability, then, is an umbrella term that takes in a great number of different types of complicating factors that may impact the intellectual development of a child. As well as including many types of limitations, the term also covers the whole range of severity with which a child's capabilities are affected.
The impact of an intellectual disability varies greatly depending upon exactly what type of disability a child has and upon the degree of impairment in the learning process that is caused by the disability. One child may be slower than normal in acquiring skills needed to learn to read but may be able to acquire the needed skills with extra instruction and practice. Another child may have disabilities that prevent the child from acquiring any of the skills necessary to learn to read. This is why every situation needs to be assessed and diagnosed individually and why an Individual Education Plan is so critical, as it structures the provision of services specifically designed to meet the particular needs of a particular child.
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