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Intellectual Disabilities, a collective expert review by Inserm

According to the World Health Organisation and other recognised authorities, intellectual disability (ID) refers to an intelligence deficit (significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and learning and applying new skills) as well as limitations in adaptive functioning[1]. These limitations appear during the developmental period. Intellectual disability is common and affects about 1 to 2% of the population. The recent knowledge explosion regarding the causes of ID, as well as the underlying cognitive and adaptive processes, provides a better insight into the ability of people with intellectual disabilities to functional and develops appropriate strategies for learning, care and support.

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In this context, the National Solidarity Fund for Autonomy (CNSA) has commissioned Inserm to conduct a collective expert review to provide the latest scientific expertise from international and multidisciplinary research on intellectual disabilities. The collective expertise approach has enabled a review of scientific data in the following areas: definition and epidemiology; assessment of individual skills and deficiencies; as well as care and support during key stages in life.

A multidisciplinary group of 12 experts, researchers and clinicians was formed and accounts for the complementary nature of the represented scientific disciplines. Inserm has established a literary collection with 2,500 references that have been critically analysed by a group of experts.

Among the various expert findings, the assessment of skills and limitations of individuals with ID, as well as support requirements, often remain incomplete. Furthermore, among the recommendations from this study, authors advocate an in-depth review regarding the development of resource centres for intellectual disability. These structures would bring together needed expertise in the form of multidisciplinary teams (general physicians, paediatricians, geriatric specialists, pain specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, special needs teachers, speech therapists, social workers, etc.) to ensure a multidimensional assessment of the limitations and abilities of the individual’s activity, assess his/her needs in order to organise the required support, and provide coordinated and practical assistance that could contribute to the life course of an individual with intellectual disabilities and his/her family.

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[1] The literature today recognises the definition of adaptive behaviour as a complex concept based on three concepts: conceptual adaptive skills (language, reading, mathematical concepts, time, etc.), social skills (interpersonal skills, social responsibility, etc.) and practical skills (daily activities, occupational skills, etc.).

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