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MENTAL RETARDATION


If a kid has an intellectual disability, it means that he or she learns and develops more slowly than other kids. At one time, intellectual disabilities were called "mental retardation," but that term is not used as much anymore because it hurts people's feelings.

Someone who has an intellectual disability will have trouble learning and functioning in everyday life. This person could be 10 years old, but might not talk or write as well as a typical 10-year-old. He or she also is usually slower to learn other skills, like how to get dressed or how to act around other people.

But having an intellectual disability doesn't mean a person can't learn. Ask anyone who knows and loves a person with an intellectual disability! Some kids with autism, Down syndrome, orcerebral palsy may be described as having an intellectual disability, yet they often have a great capacity to learn and become quite capable kids.

Just like other health problems, an intellectual disability can be mild (smaller) or major (bigger). The bigger the disability, the more trouble someone will have learning and becoming an independent person.

WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT


A diagnosis of mental retardation carries with it certain unique treatment needs that must be understood and addressed. Unfortunately, most psychiatrists are ill-equipped to handle this situation, having received little or no formal training in this area. This article is written with the specific goal of giving psychiatrists a better understanding of the special needs of patients with mental retardation and strategies for improving their quality of life.

Mental retardation is a state of developmental deficit, beginning in childhood, that results in significant limitation of intellect or cognition and poor adaptation to the demands of everyday life. As noted by Esquirol, intellectual disability is not a disease in and of itself, but is the developmental consequence of some pathogenic process.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) defines mental retardation as follows:

  • Significantly subaverage intellectual functioning - An intelligence quotient (IQ) of approximately 70 or below
  • Concurrent deficits or impairments in adaptive functioning in at least 2 of the following areas: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety
  • Onset before age 18 years

Although mental retardation is classified as an axis II disorder in DSM-IV-TR, it is not considered a mental illness as such, with its own unique signs and symptoms. It is a system of identifying groups of people who need social support and special educational services to carry out tasks of everyday living.

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Gyan