A quote from Shakespeare “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” has important meaning which applies to the everyday life of all humans. This quote suggest that a name is just a label to distinguish one thing from another. Humans understand their world by categorizing similar things into groups and labeling them. The name really has no worth nor does the label have any meaning. The importance of a person or thing is the way it is; not because of what it is called.
This being said a great deal of meaning is given to words/labels many of which are incorrect and hurtful. Suggestions are made to use the word “disability” and never use words such as “handicapped,” “cripple,” “victim,” “retarded,” or “special needs.” In 2010, Congress passed Rosa’s Law which changed references to mental retardation in Federal laws to intellectual disability. Children with intellectual disability have what is known as a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significantly impaired intellectual and adaptive functioning.
Intellectual disability involves problems with brain function in two areas: intellectual functioning such as learning, problem solving, judgment and adaptive functioning such as activities of daily living such as communication and independent living. All of us have known people who are good in one area of intellectual functioning and not so good in the other area. An example would be the absent-minded professor.
Intelligence quotient (IQ) has been tested for over a century and multiple exams have been developed to determine deficits in intellectual and adaptive functioning. There are exams for all ages. These exams measure how well someone can use information and logic to answer questions and make predictions, measure short and long term memory, how well puzzles can be solved and how quickly. These tests tend to work well only for people who share a similar culture or social upbringing. Knowledge questions tend to reflect what is important in their culture. An example might be a question about abstract art or the difference between weather and climate.
Schools use IQ test to help identify students who could be placed in “gifted education” or to identify students who would need special education programs. Universities, US government (military) and businesses use various screening tests to help selecting who would do well in their programs. There are many modifications of these tests to help evaluate accurately how well an individual can perform.
Does having a high IQ mean a child will do well? Not necessarily. It appears that having passion, persistence and hard work are also important. Does having a low IQ mean no success? Not necessarily. Identification of specific learning disabilities and obtaining appropriate help can help all students to be successful.
Scoring low or high can create an identity that doesn’t necessarily predict the future. Children with neurodevelopmental disorder have a life-long condition. Early ongoing intervention may improve functioning. Once diagnosed help should focus on evaluating the child’s strengths and needs with a thorough evaluation of the possible cause of their disability (lead?).
by Sally Robinson, MD Clinical Professor
Keeping Kids Healthy
Published July 2023