What Is Mental Retardation ?
Mental retardation (MR) is a generalized disorder, marked by considerably damaged cognitive functioning and absence or inefficiency of two or more adaptive behaviors before the onset of adulthood. Conventionally, any individual with an IQ (Intelligent Quotient) score of less than 70 is termed as mentally retarded.
Initially, the definition of mental retardation solely referred to cognitive defects. However, the definition in current use encompasses two important components of MR as follows:
- The functional skills of an individual in his/her environment
- Mental or cognitive functioning of an individual.
Thus, mental retardation can be defined as a developmental disability characterized by a deficiency or delay in development of an individual’s social, cognitive, language, and motor functions. Being the most common form of mental illness caused due to developmental defects, MR is symbolic of all developmental disabilities in general, in characteristics, causation, and treatments.
Medically, mental retardation has been defined as a developmental defect featured by a considerably sub average functioning of the general intellect of an individual, marked by certain drawbacks in the functioning of two or more of the common adaptive skill areas, such as self-care, communication, social or interpersonal skills, home living, work, use of community resources, leisure, self-directed practical academic skills, health and safety. However, this particular definition, highlighting the most fundamental features of MR, applies to only those cases where the symptoms become apparent in the developmental period. The 3 major causes of MR include Fragile X Syndrome, Down’s syndrome, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Besides these genetic conditions, problems during pregnancy, problems after birth, starvation, exposure to radiation, etc. may also cause mental retardation in some cases.
The aptitudes of MR patients vary significantly. According to a research, nearly 87 percent of patients diagnosed to be mentally retarded have an IQ score ranging from 50 to 70. These patients are able enough to become skilled at novel abilities and function individually without any help. The abilities vary considerably in patients with moderate and intense MR. However, with adequate support from friends and family, all the mentally retarded individuals with varying abilities can live a contented life in the society.
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