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Intellectual disabilities range from mild to severe or profound

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The term "Intellectual Disability" was introduced in the last several years to describe what was formerly known as "mental retardation." Mental retardation came to be used in a derogatory fashion to insult another person, rather than describe a legitimate behavioral condition involving a developmental or intelligence deficit.

Having an intellectual disability can include problems achieving the usual developmental milestones of childhood or early adulthood or having an intelligence quotient (or, "IQ") that is lower than or far lower than most individuals of the same age.

Intellectual disabilities limit ability to perform everyday life tasks and function like most other people. Some people with intellectual disabilities are more slightly compromised while others are severely limited in their ability to live independently. Problems are usually apparent in childhood as children begin to work toward developmental milestones like feeding themselves, talking, walking and expressing emotions. Intellectual disabilities and daily functioning vary from person to person and range from mild to severe or "profound." Some adults have difficulty with walking, talking, learning, expressing emotions, expressing ideas and taking care of themselves.

For many people, the cause of their intellectual disability is unknown. Sometimes intellectual disabilities begin before birth or during the birthing process if the brain is deprived of oxygen and damaged as a result. Intellectual disabilities may not be apparent until the child is pre-school. Some children can develop an intellectual disability after experiencing a serious head injury or a stroke.

Scientists have determined that sometimes an intellectual disability is caused by "fetal alcohol syndrome," or the less severe "fetal alcohol effects" collectively now called "fetal alcohol spectrum disorders." The name "fetal alcohol spectrum disorder" accurately reflects that there is a range or spectrum of learning abilities, behavior problems and emotional issues and/or physical deformities. Fetal alcohol spectrum is caused by alcohol ingestion during pregnancy. Alcohol is extremely hard on an unborn developing fetus. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are completely preventable if pregnant women do not use any alcohol during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. Total and complete abstinence from alcohol is recommended as the only assurance against the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders that cause intellectual disabilities. For more information on fetal alcohol syndrome disorders, see the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at www.cdc.gov/NCBDDD/fasd.

Genetic mutations like "fragile X syndrome" are the most common cause of genetic or inherited intellectual disability. Both males and females carry the "X" chromosome: females have "X" "X" (two "X") chromosomes and males have one "X" and one "Y" chromosome. About one in every 5,000 baby boys each year are born with a "fragile X" chromosome, according to the CDC (see www.cdc.gov). Scientists have studied chromosomes and found that some people with intellectual disabilities have a defect in their genes on the "X" chromosome where a certain protein necessary for healthy brain development is not produced or not produced in sufficient quantity. Fragile X syndrome can only be diagnosed by genetic blood tests and parents are usually the first to notice a problem with delayed development. Fragile X affects both males and females; however, males are more likely to be more profoundly affected. By the time adulthood is achieved, there are differences in men and women with fragile X syndrome. Researchers found that 44 percent of adult women with fragile X syndrome were able to achieve a "high or very high level of independence" (likely to have high school diplomas, live without assistance, marry, work at least part time, etc.) while only 9 percent of men with fragile X syndrome are able to live a "high or very high level of independence" (see www.cdc.gov).

Some signs of intellectual disability in children are delays in development. The usual developmental milestones cannot be accomplished when compared to other children their age. Generally, the more severe the delays the earlier a diagnosis can be made. Talk to the child's pediatrician or nurse about any concerns, as early as possible. These concerns in and of themselves may not indicate an intellectual disability and at the same time, they should not be overlooked. Some of the signs to look for include sitting up, crawling or walking later than other children, having trouble speaking or talking later than other children, delays in toilet training, problems remembering things, trouble understanding rules, being unable to see the results of their actions and/or trouble solving problems. It's important to get help early to enable your child to achieve their full potential.

Prestera Center offers services to adults and children with intellectual disabilities or developmental delays. Prestera Center offers a daytime habilitation program in Cabell and Kanawha counties in West Virginia that coach, model and train adults with intellectual disabilities to learn or re-learn the skills of everyday living. Prestera Center also offers a family support program to help the caregivers of the person with an intellectual disability living with their family members at home. Other services available to those with intellectual disabilities include transportation, supported employment and vocational services, adult companion services, respite care and service coordination. Call 1-877-399-7776 or visit www.prestera.org for information.

When a problem with developmental delays, mental health or addiction interferes with functioning at home, work or school, an evaluation with a professional is helpful. People feel better with the right kind of care. Prestera Center offers a variety of services that promote mental wellness and help people achieve their full potential. Treatment services are specially designed to meet the unique needs of each person.

Prestera Center offers Putnam County residents access to effective professional mental health and addictions treatment services in Winfield and Hurricane. Offices in Winfield are located at 3389 Winfield Road, Suite 8, on the grounds of the Courthouse Complex (304-586-0670). Offices in Hurricane are called "Hopewell" and are located at 3772 Teays Valley Road (304-757-8475). The Hopewell offices specialize in serving adults with insurance in need of addiction treatment and mental health problems like grief, depression and anxiety or more severe mental health problems. Both offices are accepting new clients and scheduling appointments. Walk-ins are also welcome Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the Winfield location.

Kim Miller is the director of Corporate Development at Prestera. She can be reached at kim.miller@prestera.org.