Intellectual Disabilities

All children develop and learn differently – at different speeds and in different ways. Some children develop at a much slower rate than other children of the same age, which may be due to an intellectual disability. 

An intellectual disability can present opportunities and challenges for children, youth and their families. There are supports available to help children with intellectual disabilities become active members of their communities. Some of these supports may require a formal diagnosis of Intellectual Disability.

Assessment & Diagnosis

When you are looking for supports for your family, you may hear the terms intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning being used. This is because a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability is characterized by significant limitations in these two areas.

The term intellectual functioning refers to a person’s ability to learn and is often measured using standardized tests, such as intelligence quotient (IQ) tests.

The term adaptive functioning refers to a person’s ability to perform everyday skills or activities, and is broken down into three key areas: 

  • Conceptual: language, reading, writing, math, reasoning, knowledge and memory.
  • Social: social judgment, interpersonal communication skills, and the ability to make and retain friendships.
  • Practical: self-management, personal care, job responsibilities, money management, recreation, and organizing school and work tasks.

A diagnosis of Intellectual Disability considers a combination of both intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning. In order to make a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability, health professionals will assess a child’s ability to perform tasks in these areas in comparison to other children their age. The assessment and diagnosis of Intellectual Disability is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), which is a standardized guide used by B.C. health authorities and professionals to help them make diagnoses.

Types of Funding & Support

Family Support Services are available to assist families with children who have intellectual disabilities – to help promote healthy development, maximize quality of life and assist families in their role as primary caregivers.

  • Respite Services: Families can get some rest and relief provided through contracted respite, or funding to purchase the respite services that best meet their needs. 
  • Support Services: These include a range of programs intended to support parents to care for their child or youth with support needs in the home. Some examples of the types of supports available are: access to a child and youth care worker; behaviour supports; parenting skills training and support groups; counselling; household management services, and; life skills activities or programs for children and youth


Families are eligible for Family Support Services with documentation for an Intellectual Disability.  The documentation must be completed by a qualified B.C. professional - such as a Registered Psychologist, a Registered Psychological Associate, or a Certified School Psychologist - and reviewed by MCFD’s Children and Youth with Support Needs (CYSN) workers.

CYSN workers are available to discuss the services that might be available to you and provide other information and support.