Intellectual disabilities are disabilities characterised by limitations of mental functioning and abilities, as well as adaptive function and behaviour, which covers many everyday social and practical skills.
Intellectual disabilities are disabilities characterised by limitations of mental functioning and abilities, as well as adaptive function and behaviour, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This type of disability develops before birth, during early childhood or adolescence (always before the age of 18).
A person with an intellectual disability may have more difficulty with practical and everyday aspects of life, like problem solving, practical understanding, reasoning, learning from example or instructions, abstract thinking, verbal communication, and working memory.
Intellectual disabilities are classified according to severity into four categories: mild, moderate, severe or profound. Each level comes with its own degree of intellectual, physical and adaptive functioning, and will require a specific level of support or care. Different intellectual disabilities have different causes, such as genetics (e.g. Down syndrome), illnesses (e.g. meningitis), brain trauma, or developmental disorders (e.g. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome).
What is down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a person being born with 47 chromosomes, instead of the normal 46. Having extra or abnormal chromosomes changes the way the brain and body develops, and this causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Down syndrome causes distinct physical features, as well as moderate to mild intellectual disability.
General symptoms of Down syndrome include:
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Despite the fact that young people with Down syndrome have intellectual disabilities, they also have many individual strengths and talents. They should be given the opportunity to attend a school that is able to cater for their specific needs, work if they are able and willing to do so, participate in decisions that affect them, and have meaningful relationships. Special educational programs, a safe home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and their community can enable young people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder, and people who are born with the disorder do not need to be “cured” or “fixed.” They simply need care and support based on their specific needs. Ensuring that they receive the medical, physical and psychological care, treatment and stimulation they need from an early age will result in the highest possible quality of life. Beyond that, they should always be treated with dignity and respect.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
What is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a developmental disorder, characterised by a specific pattern of physical and mental birth deficiencies. This disorder is caused by alcohol consumption by pregnant mothers.
General symptoms of FAS to look out for:
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According to the World Health Organisation, 35% of SA high school learners are problem drinkers– meaning they consume alcohol during school or study time – and one in four practices binge-drinking.
Not only does South Africa have very high alcohol consumption rates, we are also the country with the highest rate of FAS in the world. FAS is completely avoidable if the mother does not drink during pregnancy, and this is why it is so important that young women are educated about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The mental and physical damaged caused by FAS is irreversible, and there is no cure. But there are many things can be done to help a child born with FAS reach their full potential, especially when the condition is diagnosed early on.
Doctors may also prescribe medicines to help with some of the mental health problems sometimes associated with FAS, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, aggressive behaviour, sleep problems, and anxiety.