Skip to main content
Accessibility  |  About  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  Terms

Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century

  • Published: 2015-07-25 (Revised/Updated 2016-11-24) : Special Olympics (
  • Synopsis: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century reveals a nation in the midst of change.
Intellectual Disability

A variety of medical conditions affecting cognitive ability. This is a broad concept encompassing various intellectual or cognitive deficits, including intellectual disability, deficits too mild to properly qualify as intellectual disability, various specific conditions (such as specific learning disability), and problems acquired later in life through acquired brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. These disabilities may appear at any age.

  • Intellectual functioning: Refers to a person's ability to plan, comprehend, and reason. A child's intellectual functioning can be assessed by an intelligence test. The most common intelligence test that you've probably heard of is the IQ test. Generally, a child with scores of 70 to 75 or lower is classified as having a cognitive disability.
  • Adaptive behavior: Refers to an individual's ability to apply social and practical skills in everyday life. Examples of adaptive behavior can include personal care, social problem-solving skills, dressing and eating skills, using money, and following rules.
  • Mild cognitive disability - Accounting for around 85% of all cognitive disabilities. Kids in this category have IQ scores between 55 and 70 and are usually included in the regular classroom.
  • Moderate cognitive disability: Students with this type of disability have IQ scores between 30 and 55.
  • Severe cognitive disability: Kids with severe cognitive disabilities have IQ scores that fall under 30 and will have few communication skills, and will need direct supervision. Of all cognitive disabilities, only about 3 to 4% of children have a severe cognitive disability.

Main Document

Quote: "A significant majority of Americans (62%) believe that people with intellectual disabilities and their families should receive financial assistance from the federal government."

Special Olympics International Launches LET'S CHANGE THE GAME Challenge on the Eve of the Special Olympics World Games and the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As America prepares to host the Special Olympics World Games and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century reveals a nation in the midst of change. The groundbreaking poll from Shriver Media and Special Olympics International, supported by the Richard and Cecilia Attias Foundation, conducted online by Harris Poll in July 2015, reveals that the more than half of Americans who have personal contact with someone with intellectual disabilities are increasingly accepting and positive. It also exposes that lack of contact has left a legacy of misinformation, dated stereotypes, ignorance and fear in the other nearly half of Americans. When it comes to attitudes towards people with ID, experience is the game-changing ingredient.

"Fifty years after my mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded Special Olympics in our backyard and ignited a passion and purpose for athletes around the world, we thought it was a critical time to take a deep dive into our national attitudes. We wanted to know where we are today, where we are going and who is going to take us there," said Maria Shriver, founder of Shriver Media and Special Olympics International board member. "As a mother and activist I am deeply encouraged that young people, especially young women, are paving the way to a more conscious, caring and compassionate society."

The Shriver Report Snapshot breaks as Los Angeles prepares to welcome more than 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches representing 165 countries at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. The global event is the largest held in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.

"The Special Olympics movement has been a catalyst for connecting people with intellectual disabilities and encouraging greater understanding and inclusion across the world," said Janet Froetscher, chief executive officer of Special Olympics. "Through our Special Olympics Health programs, Special Olympics Unified Sports programs and Unified Strategy for Schools and Youth, we have witnessed transformation of attitudes and perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities. The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century reveals that experience, inclusion and intervention are the ways to combat isolation, intolerance and injustice. All of us have the ability to change the game and create inclusion in our communities and we are so excited to have everyone come PLAY with us."

The #LetsChangetheGameChallenge is a call to action to people throughout the country to Play, Learn, Accept and say "Yes!" to including people with ID. Visit to take action.


"The findings of The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century are both eye-opening and game changing. It is clear there remains a significant amount of confusion about intellectual disabilities among Americans and we are honored to partner with Shriver Media and Special Olympics International to start this meaningful conversation," said Deana Percassi, vice president of Public Relations Research for Harris Poll.

The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century was made possible by the generosity of the Richard and Cecilia Attias Foundation. "Through the outstanding work of organizations such as the Special Olympics, we have seen how sport can play a crucial role in promoting tolerance and diversity in communities. The findings of the Shriver Report Snapshot demonstrate how we must work together to create broad-reaching measures that put inclusion at the top of our agenda," said Richard Attias. Shriver Report Snapshots are an extension of the award winning Shriver Report series. They inform, provide insight and ignite impact around the biggest social issues of our time.


The Shriver Report Insight Into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century
About This Image: The Shriver Report Insight Into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century

Similar Topics

1 : Personality Changes During Transition to Mild Cognitive Impairment : American Geriatrics Society.
2 : Oversimplifying Causes of Mental Illness Beliefs May Hinder Social Acceptance : Baylor University.
3 : Visual Intelligence Not the Same as IQ : Vanderbilt University.
4 : Fewer Behavioral Issues Detected in Lower-income Kids Raised in Counties with High Upward Mobility : Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
5 : Deaf Children and Cognitive Development : University of Connecticut.
From our Cognitive section - Full List (76 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

1 : Protein Levels in Spinal Fluid Correlate to Posture and Gait Difficulty in Parkinson's Disease
2 : Palliative Care Findings on Caregiver Depression, LGBT Partners, Moral Distress
3 : Circulation Journal's Go Red for Women Issue Focuses on Female Heart Health
4 : Wearable Stretchable Electronics Aid Stroke Recovery Treatment


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.