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Information about Intellectual Disability

General information about Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability


Anonymous contributor
Resource by Taylor Harrington u0026 Clara King Adapted with permission from authors

About Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to Autism Spectrum Australia, Autism is a condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment. It is a lifelong disability that starts when a person is born and stays with them into old age. Every person with Autism is different to every other. This is why autism is described as a ‘spectrum’.” 1

Common areas that autism affect include:


Communication

Individuals may have a preference for visual or gestural communication, experience language delay, dislike eye contact, or have an auditory processing delay (gap between hearing, understanding and responding).

Social Skills

Individuals may have difficulty using, understanding and responding to social cues, implicit rules, body language and facial expressions, might use phrases that seem out of context, dislike small talk, or have difficulty with jokes, idioms and sarcasm.

Sensory Processing

Individuals may be more or less aware of some sensations (including sight, sound, touch, taste), and therefore respond differently to sensory stimuli (for example, cover their ears during loud noises, find discomfort with scratchy clothing or tags and dislike messy games, or enjoy movement).

Behaviour and Emotions

Individuals may be more or less aware of some sensations (including sight, sound, touch, taste), and therefore respond differently to sensory stimuli (for example, cover their ears during loud noises, find discomfort with scratchy clothing or tags and dislike messy games, or enjoy movement).

About Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a disability that occurs at birth/before the age of 18 and affects the way in which a person learns. Over 18, it is referred to as an acquired brain injury. A person with intellectual disability may require support with communication, reading and writing, understanding abstract concepts, planning, problem solving, adapting to new situations, social skills, and learning new things.2

Clinically, a person is classified as having an intellectual disability if their IQ falls below 70. Categories of mild, moderate, severe and profound levels of intellectual disability are assigned on the basis of IQ scores.

Approximately 30% of people with autism also have a diagnosis of intellectual disability. However, many people with autism will in fact have above average intelligence.2

Common areas that autism affect include:

- It may take longer to learn things.
- A person with ID may have difficulty reading and writing.
- It can affect how a person communicates.
- It can affect a person’s understanding – especially abstract concepts.
- It may affect a person’s ability to plan and to problem solve.

Taylor Harrington and Clara Kang created this resource as part of a community project facilitated by 4th year Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) students at the University of Sydney.

1 Autism Spectrum Australia. (2021). What is Autism. Retrieved from https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/about-autism/what-is-autism

2 Achieve Australia. (2019). What is an intellectual disability?. Retrieved from https://achieveaustralia.org.au/ndis-overview-and-faqs/intellectual-disability/