Definition: intellectual disability

Intellectual disability means a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn and apply new skills (impaired intelligence). This results in a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning), and begins before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

Disability depends not only on a child’s health conditions or impairments but also and crucially on the extent to which environmental factors support the child’s full participation and inclusion in society.

The use of the term intellectual disability in the context of the WHO initiative “Better health, better lives” includes children with autism who have intellectual impairments. It also encompasses children who have been placed in institutions because of perceived disabilities or family rejection and who consequently acquire developmental delays and psychological problems.