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What causes Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability can be caused by any condition that impairs the development of the brain before birth, during birth or in the childhood years. Several hundred cases have been discovered.

Intellectual disability causes children with the condition to take longer than typical children to sit, crawl, walk, speak, and take care of their personal needs. They have trouble learning at the same rate as other kids in school. Impaired children experience considerable challenges in two primary areas: intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior involves the use of everyday life skills.

Causes of Intellectual Disability:  

  • Genetic conditions: One of the most common causes of intellectual disability is abnormal genes. Sometimes, these are inherited from parents. Examples of genetic conditions are syndromes like Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome and Prader- Willi syndrome.
  • Poverty and cultural deprivation: Children growing up in poverty are at higher risk for malnutrition, childhood diseases, exposure to environmental health hazards and often receive inadequate health care. These factors increase the risk of intellectual disability.
  • Problems during pregnancy: There can be problems with the way the cells divide as a baby grows. A woman who drinks alcohol or takes drugs may also have a baby with an intellectual disability. If a woman gets an infection like rubella (German measles) during pregnancy, then the baby may have an intellectual disability.
  • Problems at birth: If a baby does not get enough oxygen during labor or birth, they may have an intellectual disability. Also babies who are born very premature may have an intellectual disability.

Causes of intellectual disability can be roughly broken down into several categories:

  • Trauma (prenatal and postnatal), such as oxygen deprivation before, during or after birth
  • Infection (congenital and postnatal)
  • Brain malformations
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Genetic abnormalities and inherited metabolic disorders
  • Seizure disorders
  • Nutritional deficits such as severe malnutrition
  • Environmental influences (alcohol, other drugs, toxins such as lead or mercury, teratogens)
  • Severe and chronic social deprivation