Special Needs

Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Intellectual and developmental disabilities (mental retardation) refers to a range of cognitive, social/ emotional, adaptive and motor delays or impairments (e.g. below-average IQ and a lack of skills needed for daily living). These deficits often impact on the child’s ability to communicate, learn, interpret and respond to social cues.


The child may also exhibit challenging behaviour (self-injury, aggression, destruction) associated with frustration from the latter deficits.

If the child presents any of the following behaviours, consider this a red flag:

Cognitive Concerns

 Significant attention difficulties

 Poor concentration, poorly focused and organized

 Is extremely restless and distractible

 Memory impairments

 Poor problem solving (planning, organizing and initiating tasks)

 Slow to process verbal information/slow to understand what is said

 Slow to process visual and non-verbal information (e.g., gestures, signs, social cues)

 Difficulty learning new tasks

 Has difficulty following directions and/or routines

 Poorly developed basic concepts (e.g., colours, shapes, body parts)

Social/Emotional/ Behavioural Concerns

 Poorly developed play skills (for his age)

 Awkward or absent greeting of others

 Has very few friends/alienates other children

 May be withdrawn/passive due to inability to communicate

 Has trouble interacting appropriately with peers

 Narrow range of interests that he engages in

 Frequent tantrums, aggression, destruction or self-injury due to frustration, lack of ability to communicate, interruption/change in routine, not getting what he wants, mind gets stuck on one issue

 May present with oppositional/defiant behaviour due to inability to process information - does not know what is expected of him

 Behaviour affecting ability to learn new things

 Socially inappropriate behaviour (e.g., taking another child’s food, stripping in public)

 Poor/lack of ability to empathize (e.g., if another child is crying)

Adaptive Concerns

 Has delays in two or more age-appropriate life skills domains (e.g., toileting, dressing, feeding, face and hand washing)

 Shows no age-appropriate awareness of danger

Communications Concerns

 Poor expressive communication (language, gestures, signs)

 Poor comprehension of language (words, gestures, pictures)

Physical Concerns

 Poorly developed fine motor skills (e.g., holding a pencil, picking up beads)

 Poorly developed gross motor skills (e.g., awkward gait, poor coordination, poor balance)

 Seizures or frequent periods of blank staring



Services and Information related to Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Having more general concerns about a child's development?

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