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Mental Retardation

Early Intervention

   12 % of all children receiving Special Education services have mental retardation
   1-3 % of the total population have mental retardation

  Definition  (according to the 1983 AAMR - American Association on Mental Retardation):  
   significantly subaverage intellectual functioning
   (IQ below 70 - mild; IQ below 50 - severe)
   deficits in adaptive behavior (across 2 or more areas)
   manifested before age 18 (during developmental period)

*The AAMR first defined mental retardation in 1921.


IQ Range Old Classification New Classification
50 - 70 Mild mental retardation Educable mental retardation
35 - 55 Moderate mental retardation Trainable mental retardation
20 - 40 Severely/multiply handicapped Severe mental retardation
25 or below Severely multiply handicapped Profound mental retardation

Adaptive Life Skill Areas:
-  Communication
-  Self-care
-  Homeliving
-  Social skills
-  Community use
-  Self-direction
-  Health and safety
-  Functional academics
-  Leisure
-  work

         Intermittent:  as-needed, characterized by episodic nature;
                                          may be short-term
         Limited: consistent over time, time-limited
         Extensive:  regular involvement, not time-limited
         Pervasive:  constant, high intensity, across environments

Early Intervention & Down Syndrome - click here to read a research-based essay about the effects of early intervention on Down Syndrome

  Characteristics of Mental Retardation

Limitations in Intellectual Functioning:

         impairments in memory, especially short-term
         do not use active memory strategies when they first encounter new                               information
         benefit from external memory strategies (i.e. moving objects in a                     particular order as an aid to remembering a verbal item sequence)
         difficulty in generalizing the skills learned in one setting to other settings         that involve different cues, expectations, people and environmental         arrangements
         lack of motivation
         set low goals to minimize failure
         develop learned helplessness
         use outer-directedness (seeking others to guide them)
   benefit from behavior analysis: Use applied behavior analysis (the systematic collection and graphing of data to ascertain a student's progress toward a specific objective)

  Limitations in Adaptive Skill Areas:

Self-direction (self-determination)
-  the ability of individuals to live their lives the way that they choose to live them, consistent with their own values, preferences, and abilities

Functional Academics
   the more retarded a student is, the more functional are academics
   aimed towards independent living

Home Living Skills

  Causes of Mental Retardation

Timing:  when it happened
   Prenatal (before birth)
   Perinatal (during birth)
   Postnatal (after birth)

Type:  Biomedical
 -      Causes that develop within the individual
   Chromosomal disorders (occur when a parent contributes too much or too little genetic material)
i.e. Down Syndrome:  3 chromosomes instead of two on the 21 pair
   occurs 1 in every 600-800 births
   occurs 1:100 when mother's age is above 40
   hypoxia and anoxia:  oxygen deprivation
   PKU, Galactosemia, Tay Sachs Disease
   prematurity, meningitis, head trauma

Type:  Psychosocial
   social and environmental influences
   poverty (can lead to malnutrition, no immunizations, poor maternal health)
   child abuse, neglect

  Preventing Mental Retardation

Primary:  intervention before cause occurs
Secondary:  intervention begins when problem is known (lead screening, PKU testing, ect.)
Tertiary:  intervention after problem is present (special education, physical therapy, ect.)


Functional Academics:  
   Learning to complete a job application form
   Learning to use a city map or a telephone directory
   Learning survival words (men/women, entrance/exit, walk/don't walk, emergency, caution)
   Learning to carry on a reciprocal conversation
   Learning to identify denominations of money and to make change
Augmentative Communication Device
   Equipment that is used to increase an individual's ability to communicate effectively
   A curriculum on self-determination should include:  choice making, decision making, problem solving, goal setting and attainment, self-observation, evaluation and reinforcement, internal locus of control, positive attributions of efficacy and outcome expectancy, self-awareness, self-knowledge
Peer tutoring
Cooperative learning
Assistive Technology


Remedial emphasis:  
   occurs in separate resources rooms and programs
   teaches basic academic and social skills
   provides intensive programming in reading, math, and language arts

General Classroom Support:
   tutorial assistance
   alternative ways of achieving goals
   developing learning strategies

Adult outcomes:
   emphasizes the life-skills preparation
   identifies expectations of the environments where students will live, work, and play after they leave school
   teaches skills that prepare them to function successfully in those environment