Borderline intelligence, disability provisions and fuzzy borders


  • Smitha Ramadas Additional Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Thrissur-680596, Kerala, India



borderline, intelligence, disability


The diagnosis and boundaries of borderline intellectual functioning (BIF) lack clarity. The nosological status in DSM 5 and ICD 10 and 11 are also dubious. The provision of 'borderline disability' of 25 % for the category of Intellectual Disability, in the RPWD (Rights of persons with disability) act, falls below the benchmark disability criteria. The Kerala State commissioner for persons with disabilities categorises those with IQ between 70 and 84, as 'borderline intelligent' and provides the benefits of scribe/interpreter to them. Can the psychiatrist certify an entity which does not exist in the current classificatory systems? The author tries to highlight the fallacies in the implementation of disability provisions in Kerala for students with BIF and provides alternative solutions vis a vis the disability plea.


American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

World Health Organization. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (11th Revision). 2018. Accessed 21 Nov 2019. [last accessed 1-8-2020]

Emerson E, Einfeld S, Stancliffe RJ. The mental health of young children with intellectual disabilities or borderline intellectual functioning. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2010;45:579–87

Peltopuro M, Ahonen T, Kaartinen J, Seppälä H, Närhi V. Borderline intellectual functioning: a systematic literature review. Intellect Dev Disabil. 2014;52:419-43

Guidelines for Assessment of Disabilities – Gazette; 5 January 2018. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 June 12]

State Commissioner and Government secretary (2020). Court of State Commissioner for persons with disabilities, No.448/S2/20/SCPWD dated 14-2-2020, Thiruvanathapuram.

Ramadas S, Vijayan VV. Profile of students referred for the assessment of scholastic backwardness at a tertiary care center. Indian J Psychiatry 2019;61:439-43

Ramkumar GS. Mental health provisions in schools of Kerala: a narrative overview of programs and interventions. Kerala Journal of Psychiatry 2015;28:82-93.

Gardner, H. Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books;1999.

Tomlinson C, Brighton C, Hertberg H, Callahan C, Moon T, Brimijoin K, et al. Differentiating Instruction in Response to Student Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile in Academically Diverse Classrooms: A Review of Literature. J Educ Gift. 2003;27:119–45.




How to Cite

Ramadas, S. (2020). Borderline intelligence, disability provisions and fuzzy borders. Kerala Journal of Psychiatry, 33(2), 173–175.