Mental retardation, otherwise known as an intellectual disability or MR/ID, happens when a child’s brain does not develop as it should. Nearly every patient is diagnosed by the age of 18, and the very severe cases are usually discovered at birth or shortly after. It can be more difficult to diagnosis milder forms until a child is older and does not meet age-related developmental standards.
What is Mental Retardation?
There are four different levels of mental retardation that impact how a person with intellectual disability will be medically treated.
- Mild Retardation. A patient with mild mental retardation is at the lowest end of the spectrum. Someone with this disability will be slower in learning how to talk, but can speak effectively once they figure it out. This person will likely have an IQ between 50 and 69, suffer from social issues, be able to care for themselves sufficiently, may struggle with reading and writing, and may have other related conditions, such as a physical disability or epilepsy.
- Moderate Retardation. A child who is diagnosed with moderate mental retardation often has an IQ in the range of 35 to 49. This child usually is slow to communicate and learn, will have basic reading and math skills, cannot live alone, but can move around freely, and will typically do well in relaxed social settings.
- Severe Mental Retardation. A person with severe mental retardation will have a poorly developed or damaged central nervous system, an IQ of about 20 to 34, and easy-to-notice motor skill deficiencies.
- Profound Mental Retardation. Profound mental retardation often means a patient cannot care for him or herself. This is a person with an IQ under 20, who will never be able to live alone or move around without assistance. A patient with profound mental retardation is often confined to adult diapers and needs constant assistance from a caregiver.
There are some children who do not fit into any of the above categories. These patients are placed into the “other” or “undefined” category, and they are often physically disabled, blind, deaf or mute. These conditions make it more challenging for doctors to screen them for mental retardation.
Doctors agree there are certain signs that indicate a child may have intellectual disability, which can occur at any time from infancy through childhood. Some, but not all, signs of potential mental retardation are:
- Inability to crawl, walk, roll over, or sit up at the appropriate age
- Struggle to talk and communicate
- Behavioral problems
- Uncontrollable tantrums
- Memory problems
Facts about Mental Retardation
More often than not, doctors are unable to determine why a child has intellectual disability. There are, however, causes that can make it more likely for mental retardation to occur. Some children are genetically predisposed to some conditions, while pregnancy problems, childbirth problems, and early illness or injury, such as meningitis or head trauma, can increase a child’s odds of being diagnosed with mental retardation.
The process of diagnosing mental retardation often involves an evaluation with specialists. This will include intelligence tests, a behavioral assessment, possible lab tests, interviews with parents, and professional observations with a wide variety of doctors.
Assistance and Treatment of Mental Retardation
The effects of mental retardation can be managed with treatment depending on the severity and symptoms, but there is no real cure for intellectual disability. Children will often meet with a therapist throughout their life to help them understand and live with their specific limitations.
There are programs available to help families with intellectually disabled children. One such program is the child disability tax credit that is offered in Canada. There are tax breaks available for families who have children with disabilities, and there are disability tax benefits as well. The Canadian government will require medical proof that a qualifying disability exists in order to prove eligibility for the tax benefit.
For more information: Child disability benefit – service canada