Mental Retardation

Source:  Mental Retardation    Tag:  prevalence of mental retardation
Legal Definition:
Mental Retardation is listed under IDEA as one of the thirteen disability categories of eligibility for special education services under 34 CFR 300.8(c)(6). Even though termed offensive, the term mental retardation is still used as acceptable language, but mental disability or developmental disability are deemed more socially acceptable.
Mental retardation is described as "significantly sub-average intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child's educational performance."Own Definition:
Mental retardation is a general term used to describe a person who has limitations in mental functioning and/or skills such as communication, taking care of him or herself, and social skills. A child will learn and develop slower than normal- i.e.: learning to speak, walk, or taking care of their personal needs.


On average 3 of every 100 people have mental retardation.
1 of every 10 children in special education have some form of mental retardation.
About 87% of people with mental retardation will only be a little slower than average in learning skills.
The remaining 13% of people with mental retardation score below 50 on IQ tests.


The most common causes of mental retardation are:

Genetic conditions -- Abnormalities of chromosomes and genes. Examples of genetic conditions are Down syndrome (trisomy 21), fragile X syndrome, and phenylketonuria (PKU).

Problems during pregnancy -- Baby does not develop, woman drinks alcohol, or gets an infection like rubella.

Perinatal problems -- Problems during labor and birth, such as not getting enough oxygen.

Health problems -- Diseases like whooping cough, the measles, or meningitis. Or by extreme malnutrition or being exposed to poisons like lead or mercury.

Characteristics and Identification

Major Characteristics:

-Sit up, crawl, or walk later than other children
-Learn to talk later, or have trouble speaking
-Find it hard to remember things
-Not understand how to pay for things
-Have trouble understanding social rules
-Have trouble seeing the consequences of their actions
-Have trouble solving problems
-Have trouble thinking logically

How the Disability is Identified:

The diagnosis of mental retardation may be based on two main things:

(1) The ability of a person's brain to learn, think, solve problems, and makes sense of the world (intellectual functioning or IQ)
(2) Whether the person has the skills he or she needs to live independently (called adaptive behavior or adaptive functioning).
Intellectual functioning, or IQ, is usually measured by an IQ test. The average IQ score is, by definition, 100. People scoring below 70 to 75 on the IQ test are considered to have mental retardation.
To measure adaptive behavior, professionals compare limitations to other children of same age to increase things such as daily living skills, communication skills, or social skills.

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (formerly American Association of Mental Retardation) established criteria for the diagnosis:

-Severe delays in development of cognitive, communication, social, adaptive, physical, fine and gross motor -Development, and behavioral skills typically beginning in infancy and early childhood
-Significantly below average score on academic, communication, and intelligence assessments, typically two standard deviations below the mean or average on standardized, norm-referenced assessment
-Test scores at or below the 2nd percentile compared to same age peers
-Significant limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas.

Tips, Strategies, or Instructional Techniques:

1) Work for Independence: Children with mental retardation need to learn daily care skills, such as dressing, feeding, using the bathroom, and grooming. They need to be taught in repetition. Basic things in the classroom such as washing hands, getting a drink, etc must be taught effectively.

2) Give Responsibility: Keeping the age, attention span, and abilities in mind, give smaller steps at first and gradually work towards larger responsibilities. This may include counting out a set number of materials for others in the class. Next time it may mean counting out more of the same object or passing it out to others if capable. Always give clear directions and demonstrate the task at hand.

3) Increase social skills: Allow a student with a mental retardation to be an active participant in the classroom and be able to become involved in as many activities as possible within their individual limitations. By differentiating instruction they will be able to work with others and increase their social skills (communication, peer-to-peer relationships, etc)

4) Meet the Needs: Simplify and organize objectives for students with mental retardation in general education classes, and teach directly to these objectives. By adapting to the needs, you can reduce reading, writing, and or language requirements. There should be clear, organized, concrete examples of all work. Evaluation and assessments can be adapted with individual portfolios or one on one testing

5) Prepare other Students: A special education teacher may come in and talk to other students about the disability and how they are still just like everyone else, but may have different strengths and or limitations. Make sure to allow for questions and have open acceptance policies. It is important for others to become peer tutors or helpers for the student with a disability, but through a way of reinforcing independent functioning. All students in the class should work as one, as a team.