Clinical Psychology, School Counseling

Mental Retardation (MR)

What is Mental Retardation?

This classification is given to children with poor IQ, typically in the range of 70-75 or less. They also have low adaptive skills meaning social skills and a sharp learning curve is virtually non-existent. Mentally disabled children are slower than their peers in acquiring life skills such as speech development or logic.

Types of Mental Retardation in Kids

Mental retardation has been stereotyped by movies and television shows. These have made people believe that a mentally disabled person is someone who is slow and dim-witted, often ridiculed as the village idiot. In reality, this disability is nuanced with different scales of limitation, and there is room for improvement for those afflicted.

  • Mild Intellectual Disability: More than 85% of kids with the disability fall in this category and have no trouble until shortly before high school. With an IQ of around 55-70, they are sometimes unable to grasp abstract concepts but can by and large function independently.
  • Moderate Intellectual Disability: Falling under the IQ range of 35-54, they constitute about 10% of the children that are afflicted with mental retardation. These children can be integrated into society as they can pick up speech and essential life skills. However, their academic performance is likely to be dismal and would fare poorly in school. These children can have some amount of autonomy but cannot remain independent for a long duration.
  • Severe Intellectual Disability: With an IQ of 20-34, these kids are in a minority of 3-4% of the mentally challenged child population. Through extensive training, these kids may be able to learn necessary life skills but would need to live in a sheltered home to avoid stressful situations.
  • Profound Intellectual Disability: This is the most severe form of disability and is also the rarest, with only 1-2% of mentally challenged children constituting this group. They are severely handicapped and require extensive supervision due to poor life skills. With regular training and setting a routine, they may be able to pick up essential life functions.

Causes of Mental Retardation in Children

Some of the reasons include:

  • Genetic: Over 30% of mental retardation is attributed to genetics. These children are likely to suffer from problems such as Down Syndrome and fragile X syndrome.
  • Head Trauma: A severe head injury can cause inflammation in the brain. This can change the mental state of the child and lead to difficulties in memory, attention and reasoning.
  • Pregnancy-Related Issues: Pregnant women who do recreational drugs, smoke and drink alcohol can severely affect the brain development of the foetus.
  • Illness: Children suffering from measles can develop encephalitis which causes mental retardation. Infants suffering from congenital hyperthyroidism are also at the risk of poor brain development.
  • Exposure To Toxic Materials: Elements such as mercury, lead and cadmium are known to be linked with a reduction in intellectual growth.


  • Pregnant women should avoid doing drugs, smoking or drinking as it can lead to neural defects in the child.
  • Children should be immunised against diseases that cause mental disorders such as measles.
  • Women suffering from hyperthyroidism need to get treated as it can lead to a foetus with neural defects.

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