Intellectual disability is a life-long condition. However, early and ongoing intervention may improve functioning and enable the person to thrive throughout their lifetime. It may also be influenced by underlying medical or genetic conditions and co-occurring conditions.
Once a diagnosis is made, help for individuals with intellectual disability is focused on looking at the individual’s strengths and needs, and the supports he or she needs to function at home, in school/work and in the community.
Services for people with intellectual disabilities and their families provide support to allow full inclusion in the community. Many different types of supports and services can help, such as:
- Early intervention (infants and toddlers)
- Special education
- Family support (for example, respite care)
- Transition services
- Vocational programs
- Day programs
- Housing options
- Case management
Under federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, 1990), early intervention services work to identify and help infants and toddlers with disabilities. Federal law also requires that special education and related services are available free to every eligible child with a disability, including intellectual disability.
In addition, supports can come from family, friends, co-workers, community members or from a service system. Job coaching is one example of a support that can be provided by a service system. With proper support, people with intellectual disabilities are capable of successful, productive roles in society.
A diagnosis often determines eligibility for services and protection of rights, such as special education services and home and community services. The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) stresses that the main reason for evaluating individuals with intellectual disabilities is to be able to identify and put in place the supports and services that will help them thrive in the community throughout their lives.