About Understanding Intellectual Disability and Health

An understanding of the nature of intellectual disability is essential for health care professionals, who are required to support equal access to their services for all disabled people.

"Intellectual disability is:

  • A significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), with
  • A reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning);
  • which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

Intellectual disability does not include all those who have an intellectual or learning difficulty, which is more broadly defined in education legislation."

The above definition is taken from the UK Government White Paper published in 2000 in 'Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century'.

Please note that throughout the website we use intellectual disability or intellectual disabilities, terms that are increasingly recognized throughout the world. The terms commonly used in the UK are learning disabilities or learning difficulty and, in North America, developmental disability, mental retardation and mental handicap.

Readers may find terminology used in some of the older articles on this website no longer contemporary and appropriate, as they were written some years ago. Despite this we have retained these articles as we consider their content still relevant and of value.

This website is an ideal learning resource for medical, nursing and other healthcare students.  Everyone working in healthcare will find valuable information here, with contributions from a wide range of authors. The editorial team has a considerable variety of clinical and academic experience spanning many years.

Although the layout of the website is undergoing an update, the content is unchanged and all the articles are still available as before.