Mentally Retarded Child

Q. The mentally retarded child

The American Association of Mental Deficiency states that mental retardation exists when there is significant sub average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficit in adaptive behavior and is manifested during the developmental period.
This means that people classified as mentally retarded can range from those who can be trained to work and function with little special attention to those who are virtually unattainable and do not develop speech and the rest of the motor functions.

There are four levels of mental retardation. They are:

1. Mild Mental Retardation ( IQ 50-70)

This is the largest group of people comprising of 80% retarded population. They are „educable‟ and do not show the signs of brain pathology or other physical defects. Their retardation, therefore, is not identified, at times, even after reaching school, although their early development is often slower than the normal. It can become apparent only when the child starts lagging behind the peers in school work.

With early detection, parental assistance and appropriate training, these students can reach a third to sixth grade educational level. Although they cannot carry out complex intellectual tasks, they are able to take up manual jobs and jobs involving inferior skills and function quite successfully and independently and become self supporting citizens.

2. Moderate Mental Retardation (IQ 35-49)

This group consists of about 12% of retarded population. These are “trainable” and their retardation is evident early in their lives. They are slow to develop language skills and their motor development is also affected. Some of these students could be taught to read and write and speak some broken language. Physically, they are clumsy and suffer from poor motor coordination.

3. Severe Mental Retardation( IQ 20 -34)

This is the group of „dependent retarded‟ consisting of 7% of retarded population. These are the children with severe problems of speech retardation and sensory defects and motor handicaps are common.

4. Profound Mental Retardation (IQ under 20)

They belong to the category of „life support mental retardation‟ consisting of 1% of the retarded population. Most of these are severely deficient in adaptive behaviors and unable to master even the simplest of tasks. Severe physical deformities along with convulsive seizures, mutism, deafness and other problems are common. Such a person has a very short life expectancy.

Causes of Mental Retardation

Biological Causes

In about 25 % to 35 % of the cases, of mental retardation, there is a known biological cause. The most frequent being the presence of an extra chromosome causing Down’s syndrome. The frequency of this disorder increases with the increasing age of the mother.
A birth complication like inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain is another major cause of biological mental retardation.
Many cases of mental retardation are classified as „familial retardation‟ where there is no known biological cause, but there is a family history of retardation.
Cretinism is retardation due to endocrine imbalance like failed thyroid or degeneration of thyroid.

Infection & Toxic Agents:

Presence of carbon monoxide, syphilis or germ measles with mother can cause retardation in the foetus. Incompatibility between the blood types of the mother and the foetus, drugs taken by mother during pregnancy could result in mental retardation.

Prematurity and Trauma:

Babies weighing less than 1500 grams at birth, difficult labour, bleeding within the brain of the babies are some other causes.

Ionizing & Radiation:

Radiation may act directly on the fertilized ovum or may produce mutation of the sex cells of either or both parents, which may, in turn lead to defective offspring.


Protein deficiency in mother’s diet during the last five months or in the diet of the child during the first 10 months after birth can cause great harm to child’s brain.

Teaching the Mentally Retarded

There are a number of areas, in which mentally retarded have specific difficulty, including attention span, memory, learning rate, ability to generalize, and conceptualization.

Providing great deal of practice, making the child rehearse actively the learning material to be memorized, may improve child’s retention considerably. Over learning is another useful strategy to deal with the problem. Finally, the teachers should realize that the curriculum goals and objectives should be adjusted to suit the needs of the special child. The emphasis should be on teaching the kind of skills that will best enable the child manage himself or herself independently in the society

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