What is Mental Retardation? What are the symptoms and treatments of Mental Retardation? And how can AC Cares assist a family in dealing with the symptoms of Mental Retardation?

Mental retardation is defined as a developmental intellectual disability that first appears in children under the age of 18. Mental retardation is characterized by an intellectual functioning level that is well below average and significant limitation in adaptive functioning. It begins in childhood. Typically, it persists throughout one’s lifespan. If an individual has below average intellectual functioning (measured by standardized test) and significant deficits in two or more adaptive skill areas a diagnosis of mental retardation is made. Experiencing mental retardation is not a limitation. New skills can be attained, but it may take time.

Symptoms of mental retardation in each patient can vary depending on the severity of the condition experienced. Symptoms that can arise in patients with mental retardation, in the form of:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Slow in learning important things, like dressing and eating.
  • Difficulties in controlling emotions, such as irritability.
  • Inability to understand the consequences of actions taken.
  • Bad reasoning and difficult problem-solving.
  • Poor memory.
  • The patient’s IQ score can also indicate the severity of the condition suffered.

How is mental retardation diagnosed?

A diagnosis is made if an individual has limitations in two fields: intellectual function and adaptive behavior. Intellectual function refers to a person’s ability to learn, reason, make decisions and solve problems. One’s intellectual functioning level is defined by standardized tests for intelligence quotient or IQ. An IQ below 70 is considered a marker for mental retardation. Adaptive skills are the skills needed for daily life. These skills include the ability to produce and understand language, home-living skills, use of community resources, health, safety, leisure, self-care, social skills, self-direction, functional academic skills, and work skills.

If symptoms arise, a comprehensive physical examination should be completed. Physicians should first assess possible organic causes of symptoms. Conditions such as hyperthyroidism and PKU can cause symptoms of mental retardation. If discovered early, the progression of retardation can be stopped, and in some cases, partially reversed. If a neurological syndrome or injury is suspected, you may be referred to a neurologist for further assessment.

The evaluation process to diagnosis mental retardation is holistic. A complete medical, family, social and educational history should be compiled. An interview with parents and/or caregivers is a vital mode of information gathering since they can provide the best insight into the child’s daily living. Thorough intelligence testing is done to measure learning abilities and intellectual functioning. Tests include the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, and the Kaufmann Assessment Battery for Children. For infants with symptoms of mental retardation, the Bayley Scales of Infant Development may be used for evaluation.

Associated aggression, self-injury, or mood disorders are not uncommon for those with mental retardation. Symptom severity may depend on symptom onset or underlying cause. Children with mental retardation have significant developmental delays. Chromosomal or genetic causes of mental retardation are often evident from infancy. Mental retardation caused by illness or injury may come on suddenly.

What causes Mental Retardation?

A cause for mental retardation is not always apparent. That being said, a number of biological and environmental factors have been linked to mental retardation. These include genetic disorders such as fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome prenatal illnesses, birth defects, childhood illnesses and injuries, and environmental factors.

Treatments for Mental Retardation

Free testing and individualized education and skills training for children diagnosed with mental retardation is protected under federal law. Government-sponsored early intervention programs provide assessments, recommendations, and cultivate treatment programs. Community activities and social programs are vital for feelings of inclusion, validation and self-esteem. For those with mental retardation who seek independent living, training is available. This training is tailored to the strengths and needs of the individual. Individuals with mild retardation are often successful in holding a job and living independently. For those for which this is not possible, supervised community living provides an alternative.

Family support is essential in helping individuals experiencing mental retardation to reach their potential. Family therapy helps relatives understand the needs of the individual affected. It can also aid in helping parents deal with feelings of guilt or upset.

Treatment for mental retardation is not curative. Instead, specialized therapy aims to help the individual to adapt and develop with the condition. Therapies utilized in the treatment of mental retardation are individualized family service planning (IFSP) and individualized education program (IEP). Therapists aid patients in controlling symptoms. They also give guidance to caregivers on supportive measures to enhance the ease of daily activities.

How can parents help a child with mental retardation?

Parents can help patients make the most out of treatment by supporting their efforts in the home. Methods of doing so include: Allowing the patient to stretch their limitations by trying new things or acting independently can be especially useful, reinforcing what they are learning in school or therapy to help them solidify new information, encouraging participation in group activities with peers, and continuing to research and learn about the condition.

How can we help?

At AC Cares, we can assist the family in dealing with Mental Retardation in many ways. These would include:

Whether you are searching for a qualified doctor, treatment options, or a nutritionist, we have vetted, knowledgeable medical professionals to assist you on your journey.
Dealing with Mental Retardation can be overwhelming and confusing for families, and we have the latest information on everything from new treatment options to medical trials to help our families in need.
Meeting with others facing similar challenges can provide a lifeline to those who feel alone, and our support groups and moderators are there to walk with you on this journey.
Group seminars and workshops on topics ranging from getting the support needed for your child at school to safety measures in the home provide instruction to prepare you for your role as advocate and caregiver.