A Guide to Mental Health Intellectual Disability and Adaptive Fitness

mental health intellectual disability

How can you help someone with an intellectual disability and mental health issues? That is to say, this tricky situation needs patience and the right help. 

As a matter of fact, as a loved one, hiring an adaptive fitness personal trainer plays a role in helping them cope and find treatment. But where do you even start? This guide explains everything you need to know about mental health intellectual disability. 

What is Mental Health Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability happens when thoughts impact intelligence, everyday skills, and life. However, the effect can be diverse for each person. As a matter of fact, some may face minor challenges and live on their own. At the same time, others may need lifelong help due to more severe effects.

Symptoms of Mental Health Intellectual Disability

If someone in your life has health disparities intellectual disabilities, they may show signs like: 

Intelligence-Related Symptoms

Intellectual disability can affect learning, problem-solving, and social skills. This may include:

  • Difficulty to learn new skills like reading, writing, and math
  • Challenges with logical thinking and reasoning
  • Trouble to change between activities
  • Delayed development of speech, motor, and self-help skills
  • Limited interests or repetitive behaviors

Adaptive Behaviors

Adaptive behaviors refer to everyday skills that let people function alone. In the same vein, challenges in adaptive behavior may include:

  • Slower learning of self-care tasks like toilet training, bathing, and dressing
  • Delays in social development
  • Lack of fear or caution around new people 
  • Struggles with concepts like time management or handling money

Causes of Mental Health Intellectual Disability

Several factors can cause intellectual disabilities, such as: 

Genetics and Inheritance

Genetics plays a vital role in the shift of intellectual disability. Take for example, an extra copy of chromosome 21 that causes Down syndrome.

In the same vein, some families inherit intellectual disabilities. As a result, mutations or changes in genes cause them. 

For example, fragile X syndrome. Families pass it down, which is from a mutation in a single gene, the FMR1 gene.


Infections are common medical issues for people with mental health intellectual disability. Yet, at the same time, their signs may be harder to know, making them such a risk. 

As a caregiver, you should scan for signs like:

  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling or redness
  • Drainage of fluids
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Behavior changes like increased agitation or withdrawal


Teratogens are substances that can damage the fetus during pregnancy. Above all, examples of teratogens include:

  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. 
  • Tobacco: Smoking tobacco products can harm the fetus. This is through exposing it to nicotine and carbon monoxide. Above all, this can slow the baby’s growth and brain growth.
  • Prescription drugs: Some drugs like isotretinoin, lithium, and warfarin may cause this if taken while pregnant. 

Conditions Associated With Mental Health Intellectual Disability

Many individuals with intellectual disabilities also live with mental health conditions. Below are some conditions you should know:

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a notable mental health condition that presents significant challenges in the realm of attention and impulse control, particularly affecting many individuals with an intellectual disability. This disorder complicates the ability to maintain focus, organize tasks, and follow through to completion. Individuals with ADHD may find themselves easily distracted, frequently shifting from one incomplete activity to another, and struggling to manage impulsive behavior. This can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life, necessitating tailored strategies and interventions to help manage symptoms and improve outcomes. The intersection of mental health and intellectual disability in the context of ADHD underscores the importance of comprehensive care that addresses both cognitive and emotional needs.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) deal with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. In addition to that, ASD appears by age 2-3 and affects each person in a distinct manner.

Some common signs of ASD are as follows:

  • Problem with making eye contact or sharing interests with others
  • Repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking, or spinning
  • Restricted or fixated interests, for example, only playing with one toy or its parts
  • Delayed speech or language skills, or losing language or social skills after learning them (regression)

Impulse Control Disorders

Impulse control disorders represent a category of mental health conditions where the core issue lies in the profound difficulty to resist urges that may lead to harmful behaviors or consequences. Individuals grappling with these conditions engage in actions without fully considering the ramifications, often resulting in regret and adverse outcomes. Common examples include intermittent explosive disorder, characterized by sudden episodes of explosive anger or violence; kleptomania, the uncontrollable urge to steal; and pyromania, the compulsive desire to set fires.

The link between mental health and intellectual disability is particularly pertinent here, as people with intellectual disabilities may be at increased risk of impulse control disorders, complicating their care and management. Tailored therapeutic strategies, focused on understanding triggers and teaching alternative coping mechanisms, are essential in helping individuals gain better control over their impulses, thereby improving their ability to function and thrive within their communities.

How is Mental Health Intellectual Disability Diagnosed

1. Laboratory Testing

Laboratory testing helps know an intellectual disability and any related conditions in a proper manner. As a matter of fact, here are some tests to know:

Chromosomal Analysis

First, this analysis uses a blood sample to study a person’s chromosomes for abnormalities. During this time, this allows people to notice Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome.

Neurological Tests

Brain scans like MRIs or CT scans give images that can see structural abnormalities. As a result, EEGs measure brain wave activity to check for seizure disorders or other issues. 

2. Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling can help if there is a genetic cause for an intellectual disability. In other words, a genetic counselor at a centre for developmental disability health will look at the family’s medical history. Above all, they may even ask for genetic testing. 

As a matter of fact, finding a genetic cause for intellectual disability can:

  • Help point out health risks and the odds of passing the genetic condition to offspring.
  • Allow for early treatment or management of health problems.
  • Give a reason for the disability. This may reduce feelings of guilt in parents.

3. Imaging Tests

During this test, doctors may look for any biological causes or conditions. To clarify, these painless tests use radiation, magnetic fields, or sound waves. As a result, this forms brain images and notices abnormalities.

Common imaging tests include:

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

This method uses a radioactive tracer to show how the brain functions. PET scans are often used to assess disorders such as autism or ADHD.


These are high-frequency sound waves that create images of the brain, mainly in infants. Above all, these can find brain kinks that may cause intellectual disabilities in an easier way.

Adaptive Fitness and How it Helps with Mental Health Intellectual Disability

Adaptive Fitness offers tailored exercise programs for people with mental health intellectual disability. These programs provide both physical and mental health benefits.

1. Gentle Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and breathing. Above all, this helps make your heart and lungs stronger. 

In that same vein, some good options include:


First, start with 10-15 minutes a day, 2-3 times a week. Adaptive fitness trainers increase the time and speed over weeks as you get into better shape. 

Light Jogging 

If walking is too easy, an adoptive fitness trainer will let you try jogging slowly for a few minutes, then walking and alternating. 

Using an Exercise Bike 

Riding with little resistance is easy on the joints but provides aerobic exercise. With that in mind, start with 10-15 minutes a few times a week and increase the time over weeks.


Swimming or doing water aerobics are excellent offers from adaptive fitness trainers. That is to say, the buoyancy of the water supports your body. Start with 10-15 minutes in a pool 2-3 times a week.

2. Strength Training with Adaptations

Strength training with modifications is also a part of mental health services for adults with intellectual disability. As a matter of fact, here are some exercises to know:

Use Assisted Weight Machines

Assisted weight machines control range of motion and weight. They allow you to do exercises like leg presses, chest presses, and seated rows with maximum safety. An attendant or adaptive fitness trainer can help guide you through the proper form and number of reps.

Keep it Light

First, start with just the weight of your body or light dumbbells/resistance bands. Then, build up strength over time with guidance. This helps avoid injury risk from heavy weights.

Simple Exercises

Basic exercises like squats, lunges, pushups against a wall, and seated calf raises are easy to learn and modify. As a matter of fact, an adaptive fitness trainer can help select the proper range of motion and support as needed. In addition, they build strength in major muscle groups.

3. Yoga and Mindful Movements

Yoga and mindful movements like tai chi are gentle exercises that can benefit both the body and mind. As a matter of fact, they blend slow, controlled movements, breathing, and meditation. These practices can:

  • Improve flexibility and balance: Simple yoga poses and tai chi movements gently stretch the body and work to strengthen core muscles. 
  • Promote relaxation and stress relief: The slow, focused moves boost participants to be fully present in the moment. 
  • Boost mood and self-esteem: Exercise releases feel-good hormones that can help ease signs of anxiety and depression. 

4. Group Fitness Classes

Group fitness classes are a great way for people with disabilities mental health to stay active in a supportive setting. Above all, many gyms and community centers offer classes tailored to various ability levels. Check out some below:

Basic Cardio

Low-impact options like walking in place, marching, or step aerobics are easy to follow at your own pace. The upbeat music and group dynamics help keep you motivated.


Zumba, line dancing, or hip hop classes set choreography to energetic music for a fun, full-body workout. The repetitiveness of the moves is easy to pick up, and you can go at your speed.

Promote Fitness for Mental Health and Intellectual Disability

Without a doubt, mental health intellectual disability are complex topics. While living with these can be tough, even small victories can help create a thriving life. 

You can go back for yourself or your loved one and make a change. In other words, make small changes to blend regular exercise and activity into your routine. 

Every step counts, so keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay focused on your progress. Get your online personal trainer certification and enjoy a 50% discount now.

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In your area we provide virtual in home training. Please take a look at this video to know more about what to expect in a training class. Also join our Facebook and Instagram community where we highlight stories of our clients overcoming challenges to live an abundant life. We hope to highlight your story soon.

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