Intellectual developmental disorders: towards a new name, definition and framework for "mental retardation/intellectual disability" in ICD-11

World Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;10(3):175-80. doi: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2011.tb00045.x.


Although "intellectual disability" has widely replaced the term "mental retardation", the debate as to whether this entity should be conceptualized as a health condition or as a disability has intensified as the revision of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) advances. Defining intellectual disability as a health condition is central to retaining it in ICD, with significant implications for health policy and access to health services. This paper presents the consensus reached to date by the WHO ICD Working Group on the Classification of Intellectual Disabilities. Literature reviews were conducted and a mixed qualitative approach was followed in a series of meetings to produce consensus-based recommendations combining prior expert knowledge and available evidence. The Working Group proposes replacing mental retardation with intellectual developmental disorders, defined as "a group of developmental conditions characterized by significant impairment of cognitive functions, which are associated with limitations of learning, adaptive behaviour and skills". The Working Group further advises that intellectual developmental disorders be incorporated in the larger grouping (parent category) of neurodevelopmental disorders, that current subcategories based on clinical severity (i.e., mild, moderate, severe, profound) be continued, and that problem behaviours be removed from the core classification structure of intellectual developmental disorders and instead described as associated features.

Keywords: ICD; ICF; Intellectual disability; classification; health terminology; intellectual developmental disorders; mental disorders; mental retardation.