Intellectual disorders can affect a person’s adaptive behavior and intellectual functionality. If someone has an intellectual disorder, they may have difficulty with certain skills that allow for an entirely independent life, such as social skills, self-care, leisure activities, workplace skills and communication.

Cases of intellectual disability can range in severity from mild to severe. The causes of intellectual disability include trauma before or during birth, illness, injury, genetics or abnormalities in one’s chromosomes. In most cases, the cause is entirely uncertain. Many cases of intellectual disability arise in infancy or early childhood, but they can also arise during later childhood and teenage years.

Disorders affecting cognitive function can also arise during adulthood after a brain injury or because of a disease affecting the brain, including injuries resulting from stroke (cerebrovascular accident), or other diseases, or resulting from an accident (like a work accident or auto accident). Some military veterans experience combat-related brain injuries.

Any type of serious injury to the head could result in cognitive problems. Some neurocognitive or neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s Disease, for example, can cause problems with cognitive functioning.

Intellectual Disorders and Cognitive Disorders Symptoms and Treatments

There are about 17 different types of intellectual disorder, including disorders related to Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21) and cerebral palsy (up to about half of people with cerebral palsy also happen to have an intellectual disorder), each of which may have both unique and similar symptoms.

Signs and symptoms will also surface at different rates in each person. Some of the earliest signs in children are found during developmental stages, such as late crawling or walking, difficulty speaking and trouble taking on independent activities like eating and using the bathroom. It is also possible the person will have problems with memory, logical thought, understanding consequences for actions, or have extreme tantrums. Other health concerns may also exist, including anxiety, vision issues, hearing problems, seizures and mood disorders.

Individuals with cognitive disorders may experience memory problems, language and speech problems, and issues with attention, planning, perception, insight, and judgment, among other symptoms.

Individuals with intellectual disorders or cognitive disorders might be involved in different types of therapy, such as speech, physical, occupational and family therapy.

Do Intellectual Disorders or Cognitive Disorders Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?

Intellectual Disorders are discussed in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” listing of disabling conditions, in ​Section 12​ (Mental Disorders) under ​paragraph 12.05 (Intellectual Disorder).

The individual’s IQ may be tested through a series of exams, or may be proven through already-existing records. The SSA will assess the individual’s level of intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning, and will look to see if evidence shows the issues began before age 22. Medical records, school records, and work records, along with witness statements or testimony, may all be used to prove your case. Sometimes, it can be helpful to have a parent, other family member, or caregiver provide testimony about the disabled individual’s limitations.

If a cognitive disorder arose after a person turned 22, they may still be evaluated for a listed impairment under listing 12.02, for neurocognitive disorders, or under the “neurological disorders” listed impairments (section 11.00 of the listing of impairments). Some individuals with disorders affecting their ability to learn and their adaptive functioning will be assessed under listed impairment 12.11, neurodevelopmental disorders, depending on the condition(s) they have.

This type of case can feel complex, especially when a claimant has intellectual or cognitive limitations; therefore, it may be best to consult with a disability advocate while completing the application.

And remember, you don’t need to exactly meet a Blue Book listing to qualify for disability benefits. At the end of the day, the Social Security Administration is most concerned with whether or not your medical conditions – all of them – combine to prevent you from being able to sustain work.

If the Social Security Administration finds through review of your medical evidence that an intellectual or cognitive disorder – possibly in combination with other medical conditions – rises to the level of a severe impairment that prevents you from sustaining work, and that it has or will affect you for at at least one year, you may very well qualify for disability benefits.


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Next Steps

If you or a loved one suffer from an intellectual or cognitive disorder and are considering a claim for disability benefits, we recommend you read our articles about the process of applying for SSDI and the way the Social Security Administration uses their Sequential Evaluation Process to determine disability.

This article is presented for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Medical decisions (including whether to start, stop, or modify any treatment plan) are extremely important and should always be made with the advice and counsel of a qualified medical professional.

About Citizens Disability, LLC:

Since 2010, Citizens Disability has been America’s premier Social Security Disability institution. Our services include helping people in applying for SSDI benefits, managing the process through Reconsideration, and representing people in person at their Hearing, and if necessary, bringing their case to the Appeals Council. Our mission is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, helping them receive the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may be entitled. Learn more about us and disability benefits like SSDI & SSI or give us a call (800)492-3260.