Our nation's special education law, the IDEA, defines a cognitive disability (mental retardation) as "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance." [34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.7(c)(6)]
Cognitive disabilities (mental retardation) are diagnosed by looking at two main things. These are:
the ability of a person's brain to learn, think, solve problems, and make sense of the world (called IQ or intellectual functioning); and
whether the person has the skills he or she needs to live independently (called adaptive behavior, or adaptive functioning).
Intellectual functioning, or IQ, is usually measured by a test called an IQ test. The average score is 100. People scoring below 70 to 75 are thought to have a cognitive disability. To measure adaptive behavior, professionals look at what a child can do in comparison to other children of his or her age. Certain skills are important to adaptive behavior. These are:
daily living skills, such as getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and feeding one's self;
communication skills, such as understanding what is said and being able to answer;
social skills with peers, family members, adults, and others.
How many people are affected by a Cognitive Disability?
Clinical diagnosis of cognitive disability can include Down syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Autism, or Dementia. Clinical diagnosis may also include less severe cognitive conditions such as Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyscalculia, and other learning disabilities.