Intellectual Disabilities

Signs and Symptoms

An intellectual disability is characterised by below average intellectual function. People with this condition may also experience physical, behavioural and emotional difficulties, ranging from mild to severe.

This includes difficulties with;

» Learning and processing information

» Communicating, reading or writing
» Daily living tasks, including self-care, independent living, and managing personal affairs
» Social skills, self-expression and self-direction


Intellectual disabilities are most commonly present from birth due to chromosomal conditions, genetics or damage to the brain during pregnancy. Conditions include;

Fragile X Syndrome - genetic condition caused by alterations in the FMR1 gene on the X chromosome.

Down Syndrome - genetic chromosomal condition that occurs at conception.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome- a condition caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

Developmental Delay - a childhood delay in physical, emotional and social skills and can be short or long-term.

For additional resources and support, visit Down Syndrome Australia

Affect on Daily Life at Work

» Your employee may have difficulty learning new tasks, solving problems, working independently and grasping complex concepts
» They may struggle with communicating, particularly when explaining tasks they don’t understand.
» They may face difficulty concentrating, completing tasks or multi-tasking
» They may experience mood swings or be easily upset

Workplace Support

» Communicate with your employee or their carer so you understand their capacity at work

» Consider a buddy system to provide learning support

» Implement flexible hours, workloads and deadlines with extra time for tasks

» Communicate tasks and training as small steps, one at a time. Give time frames for each step’s completion
» Create a plan for how best to delegate tasks.

» Consider using tools such as apps, visual prompts, calendars, alarms, checklists with large font and always check they understand instructions

Approximately 1 in 1100
Australians have Downs

Telethon Institute for
Child Health Research