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Learning Disability (LD) and Mental Retardation (MR)

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My 5 year old son has been having many learning issues. Speech, attention, so on. He recently was assessed through his IEP program to have an IQ of 67. Family Services is referring me to a MRDD assessment. What does a IQ of 67 mean to me? Please clarify!

A: There are two separate issues here; a learning disorder/s, and mental condition based on an intelligence test. An IQ of 67 is usually a range for mild mental retardation. This is probably why he has been referred to an MRDD assessment. It would be best to determine if this is true as he would be given the necessary help required for his condition. Individuals with mental retardation also have a significant impairment in the ability to handle the demands of daily living. This condition clearly has an impact on learning, communication, self-help skills, and social skills, during play or in a work setting. The degree of difficulty can range from mild to moderate to profound. However, he may be a little young to determine this for sure.

A learning disability, on the other hand is regarded as a disorder in one or more of the processes involved in understanding and using spoken or written language. Learning disabilities show up in different ways in different individuals. They can have problems with understanding or remembering what they see (visual perception), which can make activities like reading letters or copying shapes very difficult. They can also have problems with understanding or remembering what they hear (auditory perception). A learning disability can cause difficulties in math, reading, writing, or spelling which in turn can upset the IQ scores.

In general, individuals with learning disabilities have average or above-average intelligence. Their learning disability, however, creates a gap between ability and performance. They tend not to do well in environments which are not suited to their learning style, but they can learn very well when taught appropriately, which is why they need an IEP.

Both these conditions are distinctly separate and should not be confused as the same. You did not indicate his individual detailed scores and the test used, so it is difficult to determine if his scores are low only on one or more areas. It would be advisable to seek a professional who is able to suggest the best educational intervention for his concerns. It may be a good idea to speak to the school about his condition and allow the tests suggested for him. All the best to you and your son..


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