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About Intellectual Disability

About Us About Intellectual Disability
About Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability (ID) refers to the slow or abnormal development of the brain function which sets restrictions on learning and adaptation ability. Apart from intelligence, people with ID are no different from the able-bodied.

Intellectual disability is a permanent defect that cannot be cured. Fortunately, the potential of people with ID can be explored and developed through education and training at an early stage.

There are numerous intellectual disability classification varies from country to country. In Hong Kong, people with ID y are categorized as follows:

CategoryIntelligence Quotient (IQ)
Severe25 or below

The causes of intellectual disability can be categorized into prenatal and postnatal.

Prenatal causes are causes that happen before birth, including:

  • Abnormal genes
  • Foetus infected by virus

Postnatal causes are causes that happen after a baby was born, including:

  • Abnormal labor and delivery of the baby
  • Diseases and / or receiving inadequate care

For some cases, the cause of intellectual disability is not known.



Compared with the able-bodied, people with ID are weak in knowledge acquisition and comprehension, thus they take more time to learn something new. Meanwhile, instead of multi-tasking, they could only take one at a time.

Other learning characteristics are as follows:

  • Could be distracted easily and have abbreviated attention spans
  • Perform generally poor on memory task and require frequent reminder
  • Possess limited adaptive skills
  • Rely on external stimulus to learn rather than self-motivation
  • Hard to perform abstract thinking and logical analysis with understanding and comprehension weakness
  • Have deficits in imitation skills


Their appearances are not different from the others, except people with Down Syndrome.


They have weak language and communication skills, and experience difficulties in expressing themselves and understanding others.


They experience difficulties discerning moral good and moral evil, making judgement and regulating themselves.

Attitude held towards people with intellectual disabilities

  1. Use simple and short language to communicate with them.
  2. Allow time for them to adapt to changes, understand the idea, express verbally and finish the instruction with patience.
  3. Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Refusal to an approaching people with ID may make them feel uneasy.
  4. Take care of people with ID with love, especially those of moderate and severe intellectual disability, who are weak in self-expression, self-defense and self-care.
  5. Accept the limitations of people with ID. Some of them are of multi-disabilities such as autism and hearing loss, we should not jeer at them for their “weird” behavior as this would cause negative impact on their learning confidence, emotions and social life.
  6. Accept and pay attention to the uniqueness of people with ID, including their unique behaviors, habits and living styles, formed by prenatal factors and postnatal environment.
  7. Respect rights and freedom of people with ID so that they can enjoy a dignified life with equal opportunities, as they are also members of the community.
  8. Provide people with ID with opportunities to learn from actual work or activities. Avoid helping them to finish their task unless they are unable to do so; or provide necessary assistance only. Overprotection only encourages their dependence.
  9. Guide and educate people with ID with correct knowledge and value when they make judgment. Keep the instruction clear and in consistency. Repeat the same wordings when necessary.
  10. Reward good behavior and to punish bad behavior.
  11. Realize and make people with ID realize promises and do not give up easily for they have difficulties in understanding or memorizing.
  12. Set reasonable expectation to motivate people with ID to strive for their best, instead of covering up or altering their deficiency.