What Is Borderline Intellectual Functioning?

Children with intellectual delays can be subject to taunts and bullying by classmates that may lead to a decline in self-confidence, and difficulty with social environments.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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Borderline intellectual functioning is a condition characterized by cognitive abilities that are lower than the average, but not at the level of full mental retardation. Patients with this intellectual disability typically have an intelligence quotient (IQ) score between 71 and 85. They do not usually need assistance with tasks of daily living. Their impairments tend to be focused on learning and applying information, especially in areas like abstract and critical thinking. Some people with this condition have high levels of independence and can acquire an assortment of skills, while others may experience more difficulty, especially if they live in deprived environments.

This condition can be initially challenging to identify and diagnose. Unlike children with mental retardation, children with borderline intellectual functioning may not be immediately identified, or their developmental delays may be attributed to slightly slow development, but nothing out of the ordinary. As such children enter school and begin to interact with peers, their intellectual delays can be more apparent, and a doctor may recommend a screening to determine the child's IQ.

Patients with this condition usually do not experience problems with activities like self-care, but can have trouble following complex conversations. Some can also experience problems with socialization. There may be difficulties with higher-order thinking as well. Children with intellectual delays can be subject to taunts and bullying by classmates that may lead to a decline in self-confidence, and difficulty with social environments.

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In school, borderline intellectual functioning can cause a child to struggle in class. Such children can have trouble acquiring skills like reading and math. As assignments become more demanding, the child may have difficulty keeping up. Tasks that require abstract and critical thinking can be especially difficult, while more simple, concrete thinking can be easier. For example, a child might not understand how to turn a word problem into a workable mathematical equation, but could solve an equation if a teacher presented it.

Children with borderline intellectual functioning can benefit from support in school such as tutoring and mentoring sessions. This can be especially important if a child has comorbidities. A disability counselor can determine which kinds of services might be most beneficial for a child. Teachers and parents can work with a counselor to create a plan to support the child through school and to establish a framework to assess progress. Periodic reevaluation may be helpful to determine if a child with this level of intellectual functioning could benefit from additional support services.

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anon352434
Post 6

@Umbra21: You just don't get it and never will. IQ generally can't be improved in lower functioning people. Kids under 80 in particular are very close to mental retardation. These kids will often end up on some social service program or work very low skilled and low paying jobs, often part time, their whole life. Many people below 80 could never hold full time jobs that are not invented for them, like jobs at Goodwill or state jobs created for low functioning people.

Many folks below 80 end up in the criminal justice system. They have trouble holding down jobs, maintaining focus and interest and often lash out in anger because they're frustrated and don't have the ability to help themselves. What's worse is many are just above the IQ score necessary for full services. So they fall through the cracks.

anon349528
Post 5

My daughter is 21 and works a minimum wage job as a greater very cashier. She has no idea what she wants to do with her life; she did not graduate from high school until age 20. She cannot live on her own at this income and yet she has become difficult to manage at home. What are some options for her?

anon320828
Post 4

I need to help my son, He is 26 and still hasn't found something that he can study, but he wants to study something where he can work for living to support himself.

He did not receive any help at the school because they said his IQ is borderline but he doesn't qualify for help or for disability. He feels frustrated and I need some advice.

lluviaporos
Post 3

@Mor - Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. In studies, usually if a teacher "knows" that a child is considered to have a lower IQ they will teach that child in such a way that the child will do even worse. If they are told the child has a high IQ the child will do really well and improve.

People don't mean to, but they will treat what they think is a smart child as though they are a smart child and that helps them to improve. Even if they don't mean to, they can be discouraging to the child they think isn't going to do well and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Personally, I think measuring the kids like that can be a mistake. Everyone should do the best they can and be measured against their own best efforts rather than against someone else's best efforts.

Mor
Post 2

@umbra21 - To me, it's flawed but it's just another kind of information about a student. I don't think information is ever a bad thing, as long as people aren't prejudiced by it. It's better for teachers to know which students are going to need more help and which ones aren't so that they can figure out how to put more resources at that child's disposal.

umbra21
Post 1

I don't really think that kids should be judged on a sliding scale like this. I much prefer the Gardner way of thinking with the different types of intelligence. I wonder if kids who test in this level of IQ can actually be superb musicians or artists, or be really good with people, because they have a higher musical IQ or whatever.

Plus, I don't think it gives enough emphasis on the fact that you can improve your IQ. People seem to think it's a score that you are born with and can never change but that's not true. You can make yourself smarter by studying and practicing. I just don't like limiting kids or anyone else in this way.

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