Mental retardation diagnostic criteria

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Kiran Singh, M.D. [2]

Diagnostic Criteria

DSM-V Diagnostic Criteria for Intellectual Disability[1]

Intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) is a disorder with onset during the developmental period that includes both intellectual and adaptive functioning deficits in conceptual, social, and practical domains. The following three criteria must be met:

  • A. Deficits in intellectual functions, such as reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning, and learning from experience, confirmed by both clinical assessment and individualized, standardized intelligence testing.


  • B. Deficits in adaptive functioning that result in failure to meet developmental and sociocultural standards for personal independence and social responsibility. Without ongoing support, the adaptive deficits limit functioning in one or more activities of daily life, such as communication, social participation, and independent living, across multiple environments, such as home, school, work, and community.


  • C. Onset of intellectual and adaptive deficits during the developmental period.

Note: The diagnostic term intellectual disability is the equivalent term for the ICD-11 diagnosis of intellectual developmental disorders. Although the term intellectual disability is used throughout this manual, both terms are used in the title to clarify relationships with other classification systems. Moreover, a federal statute in the United States (Public Law 111-256, Rosa’s Law) replaces the term mental retardation with intellectual disability, and research journals use the term intellectual disability. Thus, intellectual disability is the term in common use by medical, educational, and other professions and by the lay public and advocacy groups.

Unspecified Intellectual Disability

Unspecified intellectual disability refers to intellectual disability that is difficult to evaluate among individuals > 5 years of age. Subjects with unspecified intellectual disability should be reassessed at a later time. The difficulty to assess the extent of the intellectual disability can be due to one or more of the following conditions:[2]

  • Sensory impairment
  • Physical impairment
  • Locomotor disability
  • Severe behavioral problem
  • Coexisting mental disorder


  1. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 0890425558.
  2. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 0890425558.