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What is the technical and legal definition of mentally disability?

A:

Quick Answer

A mental disability is defined as a substantial limitation in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, explains the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Legally, a mental disability is one that hinders one or more major life activity, according to the Legal Information Institute.

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Full Answer

In defining mental disabilities, intellectual functioning indicates overall mental capacity, notes the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Examples of this are learning, problem solving and reasoning. Adaptive behavior refers to learned and enacted everyday skills. These can be conceptual, social and practical. Limitations of this behavior can also be indicated on standardized tests.

Another criterion for a mental disability is signs of it during the developmental period. In the United States, the developmental period is considered to be before the age of 18. An individual’s environment, culture and peers should be taken into consideration when evaluating for mental disability, advises the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Linguistic and communicative differences should also be taken into account.

Legally, mentally disabled individuals must have a record of their impairment in addition to having limitation on life activities, according to the Legal Information Institute. In making the determination of mental illness, medications, assistive technology, and learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications cannot be considered.

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