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Mental Retardation

Defining mental retardation

Mental retardation is most often defined by having difficulties in two dimensions: limited intellectual ability and difficulty coping with the social demands of the environment. Please note, traumatic brain injury caused by accidents or other physical problems post-birth is a separate category, but there is a lot of common ground of tbi and mr. Unlike tbi, mental retardation must have an onset before age 18.

Limited intellectual ability is mesured by IQ, intelligence quotient. IQ relates mental age (MA) to chronological age(CA). If a person's mental age is significantly lower than their chronological age, the person is categorized as retarded. Impaired social ability is a less quantitative measure. This may include problems relating to peers, difficulty in complying with directions, and an overall difficult in understanding and relating to others and the environment.

There is a continuum of severity of mental retardation. Frequently, retardation is categorized by degree from mild to severe. More mild retardation can frequently be compensated for with education and training. Often, people with mild retardation can function independently and hold down jobs. Severely retarded peole, however, often need life-long supervised care. School systems and society at large must work with people who possess varying degrees of retardation, and help them live their lives to the fullest.

Working with mental retardation


The educational system is obligated to provide education to all children, regardless of mental retardation status. School systems should provide appropriate assessment and placemnts for mentally retarded students, and parents should be involved in these decisions. In the past, mentally retarded students were educted in separate special education classrooms or even in special schools. The trend recently has been to include mental retarded students as much as possible in the general education curriculum. This facilitates social development of both the mentally retarded and non-retarded students in the classroom, and better prepares both groups of students for relating to people in the non-school environment. Only the most severely retarded students are still frequently taught in special classrooms or school.


The community should support people who are mentally retarded and their families. This should include ensuring schools are providing appropriate education and ensuring that community organizations are willing to include retarded people. Sports clubs and businesses shoudl welcome retarded citizens. Also, businesss should recognize that mild and moderately retarded people can be effecient and skilled workers at many jobs.

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