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Guide to Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities

Guide to Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities


Although people may use these terms interchangeably, cognitive and developmental disabilities are distinct from one another, even though there are some disabilities that may fall into both of these categories. What these different disabilities do have in common, however, is that both can encompass situations wherein the mental capacity or cognitive development of an individual is impaired. Staying informed on the differences and similarities of these disabilities will provide a comprehensive understanding of the best treatments for each.


What is a cognitive disability? 

Cognitive disabilities primarily affect the intellectual functions and capacities of an individual’s brain. Low IQ and difficulties learning and processing information are common in people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Examples of cognitive disabilities include ADHD, dyslexia, and genetic disabilities such as autism, Down Syndrome, and fragile X syndrome. 


What’s the difference between cognitive and intellectual disabilities?

Although cognition and intelligence seem like synonyms, they are distinct. Cognition refers to the process of acquiring knowledge, whereas intelligence refers to one’s capacity to learn or understand concepts and information. Some cognitive disabilities may be classified under the umbrella term “intellectual disabilities”, but not all intellectual disabilities are considered to be cognitive disabilities. 


Cognitive disabilities can include learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and ADHD. These are not classified as intellectual disabilities like Down Syndrome and autism. Individuals who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities have a greater capacity for independence and self-care than those with intellectual disabilities.


What is a developmental disability?

Developmental disabilities encompass a wide range of general conditions, mainly referring to those where physical and intellectual impairments result in delays or setbacks in developmental milestones. Because missing developmental milestones is an indication that a developmental disability is present, these are typically diagnosed during childhood. Taking your first few steps and saying your first words are examples of developmental milestones. If your child is well behind the period during which these milestones are commonly completed, you may want to consider visiting your doctor to discuss this further. 


Examples of developmental disabilities are cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, and fetal alcohol syndrome, just to name a few.


Treatments for Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities

Living with a cognitive or developmental disability by no means rules out the possibility for a full, rich, meaningful life. ECCM knows that treatment of disabilities can help an individual achieve independence, progress towards their goals, and maintain a satisfying lifestyle. It’s always important to first consult with a medical professional before choosing a specific treatment, as there are more treatments out there than this inexhaustive list.


Treatments for Cognitive Disabilities 

While there aren’t cures for cognitive and intellectual disabilities, they can be managed by implementing many forms of treatment. The recommended treatment for cognitive disabilities varies because each disability is different, having its own set of characteristics and challenges. No one treatment is a perfect solution to any given person’s cognitive disability, however, each disability has treatments that are widely known and generally effective.


Treatments for Down Syndrome

Occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy can all be forms of treatment for autism. These therapies can help people with autism to improve their adaptive behaviors, which are a set of skills that allow them to cope and function in their daily lives. ECCM offers Intellectual Disabilities Supports Coordination, which includes a variety of services that help adults with Down Syndrome. A feature of Intellectual Disabilities Supports Coordination is working with individuals to develop plans that work towards achieving a satisfying and meaningful life.


Treatments for ADHD

Behavior therapy is a common treatment for individuals with ADHD. Sometimes this can entail talk therapy or play therapy (for children who are diagnosed). These therapies create an environment where individuals may be comfortable communicating their feelings and experiences with professional therapists and family members. The main goal of this therapy is to help transform negative thoughts or actions into positive ones. This therapy also helps general communication and social skills.


Treatments for Developmental Disabilities 

As stated earlier, developmental disabilities can encompass intellectual and cognitive disabilities where developmental milestones are missed. Each disability is unique on its own and also varies on a person-to-person basis, so treatment needs to be individualized based on the needs of the patient. It’s important to discuss treatments with your doctor and/or medical professionals that can give you in-depth insight into the best options for you.


Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Treatment and care for cerebral palsy are usually administered based on a unique plan recommended by your doctor. Many times, people diagnosed with cerebral palsy will attend appointments with neurologists to discuss abnormal brain development. Treatment can also include visits to rehabilitation specialists for improvement in motor skills and speech therapists.


Treatments for Autism

A common treatment for autism is early intervention. ECCM offers Early Intervention Service Coordination, which is a program that works to observe children throughout important developmental periods for possible intellectual and cognitive disabilities. This service helps families achieve the best outcomes and success for their children during their development. 


ECCM also offers an Autism Supports Coordination service, which focuses specifically on individuals with autism, creating support plans tailored to their needs. It can be helpful to have a personalized support plan, as autism symptoms can vary greatly per person. There are many different forms of treatment for autism that can cater to the specific needs of children on the spectrum.


We Care at ECCM

At ECCM, we strive to provide a professional level of care that gives individuals freedom and independence in their daily lives. Our variety of services is guaranteed to offer a treatment for you or a loved one. To learn more about ECCM, who we are, and what we offer, call our office today.


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