Intellectual, Developmental and Learning Disabilities

What I learned about students with intellectual, learning and developmental disabilities and how I will accommodate these types of learners in my future classroom.

Intellectual Disability

What is an Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual Disability is defined as a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills.These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child.This disability originates before the age of 18.

This disability can be caused by numerous factors, such as genetic conditions, problems during pregnancy, problems during birth, disease, and malnutrition.


  • Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability.
  • Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability.
  • More than 545,000 children (ages 6-21) have some level of intellectual disability and receive special education services in public school under this category in IDEA, the nation’s special education law.
  • 1 in every 10 children who need special education have some form of intellectual disability.


Developmental Disability

What is development disability?

Developmental disabilities are severe, long-term problems. They may be physical, such as blindness. They may affect mental ability, such as learning disorders. Or the problem can be both physical and mental, such as Down syndrome. The problems are usually life-long, and can affect everyday living.

This disability can be caused by genetic or chromosome abnormalities (down syndrome), exposure to alcohol or other substances during pregnancy (fetal alcohol syndrome) and pre-term birth.


  • Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 through 17 years have a one or more developmental disabilities
  • Children who have a sibling are at a higher risk of also having an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Prevalence of autism increased 289.5% in last 12 years.
  • Males have a higher prevalence of ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, stuttering/stammering and other developmental disabilities.

Learning Disability

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a neurological disorder. In simple terms, a learning disability results from a difference in the way a person's brain is "wired." Children with learning disabilities are as smart or smarter than their peers. But they may have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/or organizing information if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways.

Common learning disabilities include dyslexia, dyscalculia (difficulty solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts) and auditory or visual processing disorder.


  • 15% of the U.S. population has some type of learning disability, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. As many as 80% of students with learning disabilities have reading problems.
  • Learning disabilities often run in families.

Tips for Teachers

Some tips for teaching students with disabilities

  • Learn as much as you can about the different types of learning disabilities. The internet is full of resources, or talk with other teachers who have experience a
  • Find out and emphasize what the student's strengths and interests are.
  • Give the student positive feedback and lots of opportunities for practice.
  • Talk to specialists in your school (e.g., special education teacher) about methods for teaching this student.
  • breaking tasks into smaller steps, and giving directions verbally and in writing;
  • giving the student more time to finish schoolwork or take tests
  • Work with the student's parents to create an educational plan tailored to meet the student's needs.
  • Teach organizational skills, study skills, and learning strategies. These help all students but are particularly helpful to those with learning disabilities.


Comment Stream

a year ago

Hi; I'm a student in a Master of Arts in Teaching program and I am supposed to interview a parent of a child with a special need for the program and ask about the child's school experiences. If anyone is willing, please type detailed responses to the following interview questions, and send an e-mail to with the title, "Interview." Sending an e-mail signifies your giving of permission to use the transcript for my course. Thanks in advance!

Part 1: Demographics Name of person you are interviewing: Name of individual with the disability: Describe the disability: Age of the individual with the disability: Describe the relationship between the family member and the individual with the disability:

Part 2: Questionnaire Interview 1. How did you learn that _________ has a disability? (Who was present? When did this happen?) If you were giving advice to professionals who need to explain to a parent that his/her child has a special need, what would that advice be? 2. How did you feel when you received the diagnosis? 3. Have your feelings changed since the initial diagnosis? Describe. 4. What have been the positive aspects of having a child in the family with a disability? 5. What have been the problems or challenges you have experienced having a child with a disability? 6. How did your other children react to learning their brother/sister had a disability? What impact has __________ had on them? (if appropriate) 7. What kinds of support have been most helpful to you (family members, parent groups, neighbors, other)? How would you prioritize your family needs and the areas in which you feel that you need more assistance? 8. What have been your experiences in working with school personnel? What have they done that has been most helpful? What have they done that was least helpful or even harmful? 9. How could the school help your child transition to adulthood? 10. If I were to be __________’s teacher next year, what advice would you want to give me so that he/she has an optimal learning experience? 11. What would you want me to do/not do in terms of my interactions with you if I were __________’s teacher? 12. I am just learning about students with disabilities and how to work effectively with them in my classroom. What other information would you like me—and my classmates—to know about working with children with special needs?