Mental retardation (MR)

All children are gifts

All children are divine gifts from God. How the tiny little embryo transforms in to the fetus and is delivered from your being into this universe is a miraculous process in itself. And as much as science has progressed to help us understand it, we still don’t know about all the things that go on at the back end before we get the final product in our hands. Some of our children seem to grow; learn and progress as per the accepted norms and stages that ought to be accomplished in their development. However, some children lag behind in the same and we never know why. Some in fact may be faster than their normal counterparts while others are slower. And at times the slower ones do not have the ability to catch up. This is obviously not their fault. It’s simply the way it was destined for them. These children who lack the ability to develop in their cognitive abilities in keeping with those of other kids of their age, have intellectual deficits. They are stated to have intellectual backwardness.

What is Mental Retardation?

Intelligence is the ability to think, reason, rationalize, debate and make rational decisions for oneself. Intelligence builds and develops as we use our innate potential (neural connections in the brain that are established before birth) coupled with the richness of stimulation from the environment around us. When this reasoning ability fails to develop due to any cause, it is called mental retardation. Not getting good academic grades may be a sign of, but is not limited to retardation. There are a lot of people in the world who have achieved great heights and made successful lives for themselves in spite of not being great in school. When the mind cannot reason or use logic, and there is deficient ability to adapt to the environment, it is known as mental retardation (MR). People with MR always stay few (or several) steps behind their normal counterparts and cannot catch up; although there is always some hope if they try and are given suitable learning opportunities.

Why it occurs

Causes of intellectual retardation although several proposed, cannot pinpoint exactly why this happens. Any trauma to the brain before the child was born (like some drugs taken by the mother, certain toxic chemical exposure: alcohol and nicotine, dangerous viral illnesses during pregnancy etc.) can affect the child’s brain in a negative manner. The brain is one organ in the human body that cannot reproduce and repair itself when damaged. Once impaired, the damage cannot be undone. Several illnesses like epilepsy or meningitis and encephalitis that the child endured after birth or in childhood can also impede the brain’s normal development leading to mental retardation. It doesn’t happen to a 100% extent in 100% of the children but chances of this happening are definitely raised.

Severity of the process

Retardation, with diminished ability to live independently is quite a severe condition. There are grades of MR that classify it into different spans of severity. A mild deficit in intellectual and adaptive functioning qualifies as borderline or mild MR. These children (and when they grow into adults) seem a little slow and dull compared to others but they can survive through life even though they don’t really flourish. Higher grades need more help for survival.

Progress and outcome

MR is not an illness that we can treat or cure. It is a slowed development of the brain. The progress is limited but it can be remarkable if you choose to put in the desired effort. It is important to have the child’s milestones assessed at regular intervals in case there is any doubt of a delay in their development. Some children are just a little slow and may perform activities at a later stage than their normal counterparts would. In such cases it is best to get a formal evaluation carried out by an expert.

Life skills training

MINDFRAMES offers techniques to detect the problem, look into its causality, and offer referrals, training and skills so that children can lead as much of normal, self reliant and productive lives as possible. Children can learn basic skills; can take care of themselves if you patiently teach them the appropriate techniques for doing so. We believe in the partnership between doctor, counselor, parents, and the child to teach the children appropriate behaviors, to care for themselves and build on life skills.

How you must behave

Your child ‘is’ different but you don’t have to treat them so differently

  • Love your child unconditionally
  • Learn to accept shortcomings
  • Do not over pressure your child
  • Don’t treat them too special either
  • Facilitate usual companionships
  • Offer stimulation: games, play etc.

What you can do

There are many things you cannot do with your child but then are several that you can too.

  • Enroll them in a special school
  • Form a parent discussion group
  • Offer life skills training yourself
  • Stimulate their physical fitness
  • Take care of their general health
  • Assure regular medical checkups
  • Lookout for aggression and anger
  • Watch out for abnormal behavior

Frequently Asked Questions

Did I go wrong somewhere?
No you must not blame yourself or your child for his/her condition. All children are gifts from God and should be given adequate love and care so that they may develop to their optimum potential, whatever that potential may be.

Frequently Asked Questions

Investigations and scans are normal; why retardation then?
The structure of the brain seems intact on a scan or blood report. A lack in functionality cannot be seen with the naked eye, it manifests itself as mental retardation as the brain cells are not functional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a cure for this?
There is no cure, however, a timely assessment to detect MR, and remedial measures can help to build important skills in the child to manage their day-to-day self care and be trained in some or the other vocational skill to make them confident and self reliant.