What is a cognitive deficit?
Cognitive Deficits, also known as intellectual disability, is a term used when there are limits to a person's ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life. Levels of cognitive deficits vary greatly in children – from a very slight problem to a very severe problem. Children with cognitive deficits might have a hard time letting others know their wants and needs, and taking care of themselves. Cognitive deficits could cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than other children of the same age. It could take longer for a child with cognitive deficits to learn to speak, walk, dress, or eat without help, and they could have trouble learning in school.
Cognitive deficits can be caused by a problem that starts any time before a child turns 18 years old – even before birth. It can be caused by injury, disease, or a problem in the brain. For many children, the cause of their cognitive deficits is not known. Some of the most common known causes of cognitive deficits – like Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, genetic conditions, birth defects, and infections – happen before birth. Others happen while a baby is being born or soon after birth. Still other causes of cognitive deficits do not occur until a child is older; these might include serious head injury, stroke, or certain infections.
What are some of the signs of cognitive deficits?
Usually, the more severe the degree of cognitive deficits, the earlier the signs can be noticed. However, it might still be hard to tell how young children will be affected later in life.
There are many signs of cognitive deficits. For example, children with cognitive deficits may:
- sit up, crawl, or walk later than other children
- learn to talk later, or have trouble speaking
- find it hard to remember things
- have trouble understanding social rules
- have trouble seeing the results of their actions
- have trouble solving problems
What can I do if I think my child may have cognitive deficits?
If you or your doctor think there could be a problem, you can take your child to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist, and you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older). To find out who to speak to in your area, you can contact the
for Children with Disabilities by logging on to www.nichcy.org/states.htm or calling National Dissemination Center 1-800-695-0285. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has links to information for families (www.cdc.gov/ncbddd).
To help your child reach his or her full potential, it is very important to get help for him or her as early as possible!