Intellectual Disability: How We Treat

How is an intellectual disability treated?

Intellectual disability is explored in the Neurosciences Institute
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, our treatment focus for children with intellectual disability is to provide individualized therapies that meet your child’s skill sets and functioning levels. In particular, we stress therapies to improve self-care skills and independence.

Our services usually vary for each child, based on his or her particular cognitive, adaptive skill, physical and emotional needs, as well as available home and community resources. It is always important to identify and build on each child’s areas of strength.

What should I expect for school?

Until age 3, services are provided through Early Intervention, a Federal program. At age 3, the school system begins to provide the needed school and therapy services. Ideally, children with intellectual disability are enrolled in regular classrooms with children of the same age, with special supports as needed. They may be included in a regular classroom for all or part of the school day. Children sometimes may also attend specialized classrooms or schools, based on their individual needs.

What other services and therapies are available?

In addition to services that may be provided by the school system, different types of services and therapies may be provided in the community, including:

  • Physical therapy to work on gross motor skills, particularly issues related to differences in muscle tone, strength, motor planning and coordination.
  • Occupational therapy to address issues related to fine motor, self-help, sensory processing, and/or feeding skills.
  • Speech and language therapy to address delays in speech sound production, understanding and production of language. Some children also may require special assistance in development of nonverbal communication skills. Therapy also may focus of feeding problems.
  • Behavioral therapies may be used to work on behaviors that interfere with learning, social interactions, and day-to-day functioning, such as problems with attention, mood, aggression, or self-injurious behaviors.

There is no medication to treat intellectual disability, as it is a disability and not a disease. However, in some instances medication may also be useful for helping associated problems, such as sleep, attention or mood.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s intellectual disability?

At Children’s Colorado, our providers are experts in the assessment of children and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We evaluate children from birth through puberty. In addition to evaluations to diagnose intellectual disabilities, we also provide some treatment and interventions for children with developmental disabilities, including medication management to address behavioral issues, as well as treatments to address sleep, toileting, anxiety and behavioral problems. We also provide support for families to access community-based resources.

Learn more about the Child Development Unit.