Sample Education Essays on Intellectual Disability: Definition and Causes

Part I

Formal definitions of mental retardation were developed during the first half of the 20th century, and they tended to reflect on the judgment of chronicity. Phycologist Edgar Doll’s definition is the most important of them, and it continues to define mental disability in today’s society. Doll defined mental retardation as a sub-average general intellectual functioning that is developed during an individual’s development period, and it is related to impairment in social and adaptive behavior (Wilkin, 2016). In the definition of the concept, Doll included four elements, such as social incompetence, mental sub-normality, developmentally arrested, and mental retardation, resulting in severe consequences at maturity. Doll argued that a challenging situation could trigger social incompetence amongst individuals. As such, he belithat some conceptual challenges could trigger an individual’s academic failure. He further argued that mental sub-normality related to when the social and educational performance of an individual is lower than the performance that is required from his or her intellectual abilities, which may be caused by certain brain disease or adverse environmental effects. Doll believed that mental retardation largely contributes to an individual’s overall intelligence including cognitive abilities. He further argued that mental retardation is related to the impairment skills an individual acquires during his or her development. Doll also posited that mental retardation advances rapidly, and most of the impacts are encountered when an individual grows old.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines intellectual disability as a disorder that is characterized by deficits in an individual’s adaptive behavior, and negatively affects his or her educational performance during the person’s development. IDEA’s definition of intellectual disability includes two components; an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ) and adaptive behavior (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2020). The Act states that an individual with an IQ below 70 to 75 indicates may be intellectually disabled. As such, he or she may be slower than average in learning new information and skills. Adaptive behavior implies that an individual is unable to engage in various activities such as understanding and participating in conversations, taking care of personal needs, and reading, as well as doing math.

intellectual disability is commonly used in today’s society as it reflects the change of construct disability described by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and World Health Organization (WHO), unlike mental retardation. Additionally, intellectual disability is less offensive to persons with disabilities.

Part II

Intellectual disability relates to cognitive delays that adversely affects the rate and efficiency with which an individual can recall or analyze given information compared to the general population. Over the last decades, the term disability has evolved in relation to its definition, and person’s living with disability have encountered various benefits and challenges in a wide variety of aspects such as healthcare, education, and others. The term intellectual disability has been redefined and renamed a couple of times. The term mental retardation was used until the late 20th century, and now it has been replaced with the term intellectual disability due to a set of reasons such as intellectual disability reflects the change of construct disability described by AAIDD and WHO, and it is less offensive to persons who it.

The construct of disability, as described by AAIDD and WHO, focuses on the expression of the cognitive delays that affects an individual’s functioning in a particular social context, and determines his or her adaptive behaviors. It is perceived that disability is prompted by a given health condition resulting to the impairment of an individual’s body functioning. This certainly may adversely affect an individual’s ability to participate in various activities related to the environmental or personal aspects (Schalock, Luckasson, & Shogren, 2007). The construct of intellectual disability has evolved, and it emphasizes the ecological perspectives that significantly impact an individual’s interaction with various environmental aspects. It also recognizes that the systematic application of individualized support can certainly improve an individual’s body functioning. The importance of the evolutionary change from the construct of disability to construct of intellectual disability is that disability is no longer viewed as a personal trait, rather it is regarded from the socio-ecological perspective. Therefore, the construct of intellectual disability emphasizes the relationship between a person and the environment and how it can prompt the condition (Wehmeyer et al., 2008). It also focuses on the role that continuous individualized support can enhance an individual’s body functioning.

AAIDD advocates for positive changes in society, including having equal rights under the law, and improving how people suffering from mental disabilities are talked to or about in everyday conversations. The language and words used in describing these persons have changed over the last four decades, and the use of intellectual disability shows some respect when referring to the afflicted. It is important to use respectful words to ensure that those suffering from the condition feel included and encourage their participation in society.

Part III

Education equips children to be ready to meet the challenges of life, and as such, it is every child’s right to access education. Every child must be allowed to access quality education to equip and make education a reality for all children. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international human rights treaties, such as United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities prohibit any forms of exclusion of children from educational opportunities based on their factors, such ethnicity and socio-economic status among others (Mittler, 2012). However, millions of children living with disabilities continue to experience exclusion within and from educational systems across the world.

According to the current estimates, my community, located in the Eastern Shore of Virginia, particularly in Accomack and Northampton counties, ranked near the bottom of all counties in Virginia in relation to children’s well-being. The statistics show that 31% and 41% of children living in Accomack and Northampton, respectively, are poor. The statewide rate of child poverty is 17%; thus, the two mentioned regions have a higher prevalence of poverty than the standard. Across Virginia, disabled children attend special schools that are mostly located in urban areas. In my community, there are only two special schools; thus, many of the children living with disabilities are unable to access quality education due to limited chances in these rural schools. Due to these limited chances, many parents tend to take their children to urban special schools. Despite these efforts, these children are usually excluded from the urban special schools due to their ethnicity, considering my community is the minority across Virginia state. The failure of many children living with disabilities in our community to access quality education has made them unable to understand or participate in various community activities.





Gargiulo, R. M., & Bouck, E. C. (2020). Special education in contemporary society: An introduction to exceptionality. SAGE Publications, Incorporated.

Mittler, P. (2012). Working towards inclusive education: Social contexts. David Fulton Publishers.

Schalock, R. L., Luckasson, R. A., & Shogren, K. A. (2007). The renaming of mental retardation: Understanding the change to the term intellectual disability. Intellectual and developmental disabilities, 45(2), 116-124. Retrieved from

Wehmeyer, M. L., Buntinx, W. H., Lachapelle, Y., Luckasson, R. A., Schalock, R. L., Verdugo, M. A., & Gomez, S. C. (2008). The intellectual disability construct and its relation to human functioning. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 46(4), 311-318. Retrieved from[311:TIDCAI]2.0.CO;2

Wilkin, D. (2016). Caring for the mentally handicapped child. Routledge. Retrieved from