Mental retardation (MR), a condition in which an individual has certain limits in mental, cognitive and group activities, is a common neurological disorder. Mentally retarded persons are not clever enough to cope with their daily needs, like eating, bathing, learning, communicating, etc. It requires longer time to train them how to walk, talk, and accomplish their routine works. During this phase, children also begin to lag behind in their school work.
According to AAMD (American Association on Mental Deficiency), mental retardation or MR can be described as a general, sub-average intellectual, brain functioning that starts off in the developmental period, ranging from prenatal years to 16 years of age. It has also been linked with mutilation in the general adaptive behavior of the retarded individual.
The development of this condition can be attributed to many factors, namely anomalous genes, problems during pregnancy like under-development of the child, wrong medication, some accident, mental shock, or complications at time of child birth. Main features of MR have been categorized into three parts: physical, behavioral and intellectual. Physical growth of mentally retarded children is generally slower than of a normal child; though, they don’t have any particular bodily characteristics that make them different from other children. They may show attributes like hyponasty, shaky walk, and orofacial part deformities. Behavioral characteristics include partial self-control, self-injury, and/or ferociousness. Some severely affected persons may have ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’.
Regarding intellectual functions, we must understand the adaptive and cognitive behavior in these children, as there is not much dissimilarity between behavior of a normal child and that of a mentally retarded one. It is indeed very difficult to identify if a child is mentally retarded before the child is 7 to 8 years of age, when he is supposed to participate in more cognitive activities in school. Generally, these children take much more time to learn new things in comparison with normal children. They learn things at their own pace. Their retention ability is poor, have a very low attention span and short-term memory. It becomes very hard for these children to focus on a task and do it at their own.
Adaptive skills and abilities mean that the child is able to apply the skills he has learnt to live his life without any help. After a certain age, a normal child does not depend on parents or other people for his small activities like bathing, walking, eating, etc. But child that is mentally retarded usually depends on others all through his life, though the degree of dependency varies from case to case. They cannot talk or respond properly as their listening power and understanding is very poor. Although these kids are very friendly and loving, their social abilities, like making friends, are very poor. They cannot concentrate while talking with others; stop recurrently, and cannot retain eye contact.
These people need cognitive behavioral psychotherapy to enable them to look after themselves. MR is not contagious and not also any sort of illness. This is a lifelong state without any permanent cure. However, most mentally retarded people learn to live and manage their lives with proper care and therapies.
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