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Perspectives of intellectual disability in India: epidemiology, policy, services for children and adults

Girimaji, Satish C; Srinath, Shoba

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32833ad95c
Mental retardation and developmental disorders: Edited by Nick Bouras

Purpose of review To provide a panoramic view of the recent developments and current situation in epidemiology, legislation, policies, services, and research in intellectual disability in India.

Recent findings A wide variation in point prevalence of intellectual disability has been reported, from around 1/1000 to 32/1000, depending on the case definition, methodology, and population selected. There are a number of acts, policies, and programs addressing intellectual disability, but their implementation needs to improve. Services in terms of prevention, early intervention, health services, parent-focused and family-focused interventions, special and inclusion education, vocational training, support for individuals and their families, and community-based rehabilitation services are steadily improving, albeit unevenly across different regions and sub-populations. Genetics of disorders associated with intellectual disability such as primary microcephaly and fragile X syndrome have received research attention. Psychosocial research has focused on family needs, family-focused intervention, early intervention, and comorbid disorders. A positive development has been the organization of parents into parent associations all over India and formation of a national confederation.

Summary There has been noticeable progress in addressing the challenges posed by intellectual disability in India on all fronts. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of developing a locally and nationally relevant and reliable database, effective implementation of legislation and policies, and development of effective, accessible, and affordable interventions.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Services, Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India

Correspondence to Satish C. Girimaji, Professor, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Services, Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bangalore 560029, India Tel: +91 80 26995266; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.