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Cognitive Disabilities

What are cognitive disabilities?
The meaning of cognitive disabilities is hard to define. Many people refer to cognitive disabilities as "mental retardation." The actual classification for CD has changed many times over the years. Originally, individuals with cognitive disabilities were called "imbeciles," "morons," "feebleminded," or and number of derogatory labels. Over the years, there has been a movement to become much more "politically correct," which in turn has led to the development of terms such as mental illness, mental retardation, and most recently cognitively disabled.

Cognitive disabilities refer to a large spectrum of disorders and conditions. Because of this, the definition of CD remains extremely broad, with many different organizations putting together their own definitions. Just a few of these definition examples are:

The important thing to remember is that each case is different and educators (as well as everyone else) should not depend on definitions and labels in their educational practices. There are many aspects of CD and each and every one should be considered before attempting to label, assist, or educate a student that might have a disability.

What types of disorders are considered to be cognitive disabilities?
Just as the definition of CD is broad, so is the range of disorders associated with it. There are a number of conditions that are considered to be cognitive disabilities. Again, it becomes difficult to distinguish a firm boundary of disorders or conditions that fall under this category because of the large amount of differing factors in the cognitive disabilities spectrum. Some of the possible disorders and conditions fall under the categories of:

Again, under these three categories fall many, many more disabilities.

For more resources and information on cognitive disabilities go to the following links:

Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities Resources

Mental Retardation Resources and References General Disabilities Information Resources

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Questions? Contact M. Needham at
Page Last Updated November 3, 2004