Mental retardation (MR) is a generalized condition that refers to any disorder or peculiarly in the development of the neural system that may result in significant issues in the intellectual and adaptive functioning of a person. Mental retardation is confirmed in children based on their IQ scores. An IQ score below 50 with 2 or more adaptive behaviour disorders is considered to be a case of mental retardation. The below-average intelligence and lack of skills necessary for day-to-day living make them different from the so-called normal children.
It is not the end of the world as people affected by this condition can and do learn new skills, at their own pace. There are varying degrees, from mild to profound. MR is thought to affect about 1% of the population of the world, of which 85% have a mild intellectual disability.
Signs of Mental Retardation
These common symptoms will be shown by the children during their infancy itself or maybe during pre-schooling days. This totally depends on the intensity of the condition.
1. Late walking, late talking, sometimes in combination with tongue-tie.
2. Slow to master skills.
3. Difficulty with problem-solving or logical thinking.
4. Difficulty in remembering.
5. Behavioural problems.
6. In severe cases, seizures, mood disorders (anxiety, autism, etc.), motor skills impairment, vision problems, or hearing problems.
If the symptoms persist, the child should undergo a comprehensive physical examination and an examination of medical history should be done immediately to discover any organic cause of symptoms.
Causes of Mental Retardation
In about 35 percent of cases, the cause of mental retardation cannot be found. If retardation is caused by chromosomal or other genetic disorders, it is often apparent from infancy. Childhood illnesses or injuries can make learning and adapt of skills difficult or impossible. Other biological factors may include:-
Heredity does play an important role in the mental stability and proper mental health of a child. For example, Down’s syndrome is due to trisomy condition of the 21st chromosome, Klinefelter syndrome due to XXY condition, an extra copy of X chromosome, Turner’s syndrome due to X condition, and a single-sex chromosome.
2. Prenatal illnesses
Whatever affects the mom, affects the baby during the prenatal period. If a mom suffers from the illness, it seriously affects the physical and mental health of the baby. Mental retardation can be caused due to excess alcohol intake, excessive smoking, and drug abuse by the mother while carrying. Maternal infections and illnesses such as glandular disorders, rubella, toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus infection may cause mental retardation. High blood pressure or blood poisoning in the mother can cause brain damage and mental retardation.
3. Childhood illnesses and injuries
Hyperthyroidism, whooping cough, chickenpox, measles, meningitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) etc. may cause mental retardation if they are not treated adequately. Traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or a violent shake to the head may also cause brain damage and mental retardation in children.
Treatment and Care for an intellectually disabled child
Basically, mental retardation should be handled with ultimate care and patience. They will require appropriate, individualized education and skills training other than the “normal” kids. Social programs and extracurricular activities help retarded children and adolescents gain self-esteem. A supportive, warm home environment is essential to help the mentally retarded reach their full potential.
Apart from these, one of the very promising scientific treatments is stem cell therapy. Stem cells are primitive cells that are capable of forming diverse types of tissues. This treatment has the potential to repair the damaged neural tissue at the molecular, structural and functional levels. Before this therapy, brain damage during birth was irreversible. The causes could be genetic or otherwise. However, SCT helps repair damaged cells and, with the help of other rehabilitation treatments, it improves the quality of life of such patients.
What if you have an intellectually disabled child?
Research everything you can about intellectual disabilities. The more you know, the better advocate you can be for your child.
Encourage your child’s independence. Let him try new things and do encourage by that.
Get your child involved in group activities.
Get to know other parents of intellectually disabled children. They can be a great source of advice and emotional support.
Differently-Abled and Not Mentally Retarded
Children with mental retardation or intellectual disability should not be considered weak or disabled. He/she should be given the same respect that all other citizens are given in our society. They should not be blamed for what they are. They are fit and expert in their own fields of work which makes them special and differently-abled. Along with the parents and family that support them, the whole society should provide the space for them in order to make them comfortable and cosy even in bitter situations. Intellectual disability or mental retardation is not an isolated fantasy to be stared upon with exclamation, but a reality to be faced with patience, care and love.