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What Is a Mild Intellectual Disability?

written by: Janelle Martel • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 10/1/2012

A mild intellectual disability might sound self-explanatory, but there are many factors and evaluations necessary to designate someone as mildly intellectually disabled. Learn more about what this label means for students as they progress through their education.

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    MID

    A student with a mild intellectual disability (MID) is usually classified as having a learning disability. MID is not a diagnosis, but rather an identifying term under which many different types of students fall. There are a number of ways in which students are identified. Probably the most common sign is the result of an administered IQ test. Individuals will usually have a reported IQ between 55 and 70, which is consistent with about 2% of the population. An IQ level below this is usually consistent with a mental retardation classification.

    Other standardized tests that are used include adaptive behavior and achievement tests. An adaptive behavior test will evaluate an individual's practical and social skills. Achievement in academics is tested through a variety of standardized tests.

    However, the most accurate way to evaluate a student is usually by observation. Though there are a wide range of mild intellectual disabilities, most students will present with lower academic achievement, particularly in subjects that require reading, math, or memory skills. These students may also have trouble with concentration, motivation, judgment, and planning skills.

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    In the Classroom

    Students who have been determined to have MID have the potential to be successful academically, socially, and financially and can gain the skills necessary to be independent as adults. However, these students require special education support. They are typically in special education classrooms for the major subjects, and they can be integrated in the general education curriculum for all the other subjects. They can be capable of doing so with the appropriate program modifications and specially designed instruction. They need to be taught at a slower pace and they require additional time to learn new information. They also require frequent repetition of concepts taught to aid in comprehension of the material.

    In the classroom, these students require direct instruction of particular skills. They need to be taught how to handle things that happen in daily life. For example, they need to hear specifically how they should take care of themselves and their homes. The teacher will need to repeat directions to these students and give them directions in small chunks. Positive praise is a great motivator for these students, as well. Keeping routines consistent and planning new things can be of great comfort to these students. Sometimes, explanations and directions need to be re-worded for better understanding.

    Students with mild intellectual disability are prevalent in today’s classrooms. By understanding the challenges that these students face, you can make sure that you provide them with the appropriate education that they deserve. If you think that a student in your classroom may be struggling with MID, refer them to the special education staff in your school setting.