The term intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) encompasses a wide range of conditions. Plus, there are important differences between developmental and intellectual disabilities. But as a general category, they’re widely misunderstood by those who don’t have direct experience with them. Myths about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities abound, and they tend to persevere even in the face of greater pushes for awareness.
So, we’d like to take a quick look at some of the more common myths about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, identifying them as such and offering some facts to refute them.
Common Misconceptions About IDDs
- Myth: People with developmental disabilities always have intellectual impairment: As noted in the post linked above in the introduction, developmental disabilities do not necessarily include intellectual impairment. Some are exclusively physical.
- Myth: Intellectual impairment is usually severe. In fact, 85% of people with an IDD have only mild intellectual impairment, and it does not preclude them from getting an education, performing a job, etc.
- Myth: People with IDDs are all alike. Just like people without an IDD, everyone with one is a unique individual, with their own personality, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, and so on.
- Myth: People with an IDD can’t play sports. While every individual’s abilities vary, most can safely and happily participate in sports. And there are many benefits of playing sports for people with an intellectual or developmental disability.
- Myth: Kids with an IDD need to be segregated at school. While it’s true that some children benefit from special education programs, many thrive in traditional classroom environments. There are also many social, emotional, and educational benefits of an inclusive approach—both for kids with IDDs and for the rest of the students.
- Myth: Adults with an IDD can’t live independently. Yes, a good number of adults with an IDD require varying levels of support, but this does not mean many can’t—and don’t—lead highly independent lives.
- Myth: People with an IDD can’t have jobs. This persistent misconception is unfortunate, as it hinders many qualified individuals from becoming employed. The truth is, most people with an IDD can perform a job as long as they receive the necessary training (like anybody else). Plenty of studies have found compelling benefits to businesses of having an inclusive workplace, too.
- Myth: Those with IDDs can’t fall in love, get married, or have children. This is completely false. While the severity of disability is certainly a factor, and the possibility of passing down inherited gene mutations is a consideration with certain conditions, many people with IDDs have meaningful romantic relationships and families of their own.
- Myth: Intellectual or developmental disability is a mental illness. The idea that people with an IDD are mentally ill has persisted for a long time. An IDD can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. And, just the same as anyone else, people with an IDD can have a mental health condition. But an IDD is not a mental illness.
- Myth: People with IDDs can’t live meaningful or productive lives. As should be clear from reading the above entries, this is nonsense. Those with an IDD learn, grow, work, play, have strong friendships and other relationships, pursue interests, and otherwise lead fulfilling lives just like anyone else.