Mental Retardation and Child Development

2 February 2017

There are general stages children pass through as they develop and certain time frames during which these transitions occur. There is not a specific time that is considered normal for any individual child to attain a goal, as cultural and environmental factors are also important to development, but researchers have formed general, broad ranges of time in which skills such as walking and talking are displayed. Children with disabilities or delays may follow different paths of development.

Children with mental retardation have been found to pass through typical stages of development, such as Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, but at a much slower rate. Burack, Hodapp, and Zigler (1998) however, contrast the idea that slowness is the only characteristic of mentally retarded people to be considered, by introducing the study of mental retardation as a “more complex enterprise”.

Mental Retardation and Child Development Essay Example

Today, as a result of recent advancements in the past 50 years (Hodapp, and Zigler, 1986, p. ), researchers know more about the development of persons with mental retardation and about the phenomenon in general. The work of three influential developmental theorists has laid foundations for the current study of mental retardation: Heinz Warner, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky (Burack et al. , 1998, p. 3). Heinz Warner, while studying at the Wayne State Training School, developed three ideas that he applied to persons with metal retardation.

First, he realized that “behavior reflects underlying thoughts” and that sometimes individuals with mental retardation would perform better on perceptual and cognitive tasks than individuals with normal intelligence because the retarded individuals had not yet learned the rules that governed their behavior (Burack et al. , 1998, p. 4). His second idea was that there existed two forms of mental retardation: exogenous and endogenous.

Individuals with exogenous retardation (brain damage) showed “unclear and inconsistent” patterns of development, while individuals with endogenous retardation (no organic damage) “behaved similarly to younger individuals of average intelligence” (Burack et al. , 1998, p. 4). This idea lead the way for future researchers to do “two group” studies of mentally retarded people. Werner’s third idea was that studies of retarded individuals compared to normal development would be beneficial. He figured since individuals with endogenous retardation were compared to younger, average intelligence individuals, that they must have been following the sual development patterns, only at a slower rate (Burack et al. , 1998).

Jean Piaget and his colleague, Barbel Inhelder, were also interested in mental retardation. Like Werner, Piaget and Inhelder focused on what the individual was thinking and not just the observed behaviors. Piaget provided sequences of development in a variety of areas; and since the 1940’s, researchers have been studying whether persons with mental retardation pass through these Piagetian sequences. Researchers have assumed that mentally retarded persons pass through these sequences in the exact same order.

However, Inhelder observed that mentally retarded persons more often displayed regressions in what they were learning even during a single session. The work that Piaget and Inhelder did with sequences and processes led the way toward later developmental approaches (Burack et al. , 1998, p. 5). The work of Lev Vygotsky is just now beginning to influence western ideas. Vygotsky focused on “how children develop and on how development may be altered when a child has mental retardation. He criticized IQ tests and other ‘non-process’ views of children’s development” (Burack et al. 1998, p. 6).

He was concerned with how individuals compensate for their disability, an idea reflected in much of today’s research of resources for people with mental retardation and the adaptations for them to participate in everyday life. Vygotsky was also interested in how adults could “best promote development” (Burack et al. , 1998, p. 6) in retarded children. This idea is reflected today in society’s efforts for early intervention. The work of Werner, Piaget, and Vygotsky paved the way for workers who would later apply a developmental approach to studying mental retardation.

As the American Association of Mental Retardation (AAMR, 2005) defines it, “Mental retardation is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. ” The limitations a mentally retarded person experiences can include walking, talking, and taking care of themselves. Children diagnosed with mental retardation have an IQ below 70 (there are tests to determine a child’s IQ score) and the condition is expressed before age 18. These persons will develop more lowly in adaptive behavioral areas than others with normal intelligence. Although they may have challenges in school, they will learn most tasks at a later time. There will be some skills however, that they will never learn (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, 2004). Although the terms “mental retardation,” “developmental disability,” and “mental illness” may seem similar, these terms are not interchangeable and do not mean the same thing. Mental retardation is an intellectual disability and mental illness is an emotional or behavioral illness.

It is possible for a person with mental retardation to experience a mental illness such as depression (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). The term developmental disabilities refers to physical and intellectual disabilities, and therefore encompasses more than what would be categorized under mental retardation. Developmental disabilities also are limited to more severe and chronic disabilities, while there are broader levels of mental retardation ranging from mild to profound (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006).

The U. S.Census does not collect data on persons with mental retardation or intellectual disabilities, but there are best estimates by several authorities in the field as to how common mental retardation is. It is estimated that about three percent of the national population is affected by mental retardation. This figure includes those who are currently receiving special services, those who used to receive special services, and those unknown cases. Hodapp and Zigler (1986) have found the ratio of endogenous (no brain damage) to exogenous (organic damage) retardation to be 75% to 25%.

These statistics translate into one out of every ten families being affected by at least one member with an intellectual disability (USDHHS, 2006). According to the Children’s Defense Fund (2003), about five percent of the nation’s preschoolers have a disability and require early intervention or special needs programs. Low income families and families living in poverty are at a much greater risk of having a child with a disability. An individual’s ability to function mentally, physically, and behaviorally depends on the severity of retardation. The University of Michigan Health

System (2005) describes the four levels of mental retardation based on IQ: Mild (IQ ranging from 55-69), moderate (40-54), severe (25-39), and profound (less than 24). Pre-school aged children with mild retardation may not seem that different from other children, but their ability to walk, talk and learn to feed themselves occurs a slower rate. With special education, they can learn practical skills, as well as reading and math up to a sixth grade level. Children of the same age with moderate retardation show noticeable delays in motor skills and speech.

Older children can learn basic communication and self-help skills, but are not capable of learning math or reading. Children with severe retardation show delays in motor development, and little or no communication. They may be able to learn self-help skills such as feeding themselves, and when they are older they may learn to walk. They may also have some understanding of speech and show a response to it. Lastly, a child with profound retardation may also have other medical problems and require nursing care. These children show delays in all areas of development, and they display basic emotions.

With special training, they may be able to use their legs, hands and jaws. These children need close supervision (U. of Michigan Health System, 2005). The causes of mental retardation vary from biological, behavioral, and environmental reasons. Mental retardation can develop before birth, during childhood, or at any time before the age of 18. Biological reasons for mental retardation include genetic problems such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Phenylketonuria, and abnormal brain developments before birth. A behavioral factor that causes mental retardation is maternal substance abuse, which can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Environmental factors include infections that may pass to the child during a woman’s pregnancy, a severe lack of oxygen at birth, diseases like whooping cough, measles, meningitis, and encephalitis, extreme malnutrition, exposure to poisonous lead or mercury, severe head injury, stroke, and lack of child stimulation and adult responsiveness (AAMR, 2005, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005, NDCCD, 2004, UMHS, 2005). There is no cure for mental retardation (CDCP, 2005, UMHS, 2005), but there are some preventative measures that can be taken. To prevent Fetal Alcohol

Syndrome, which can lead to mental retardation, pregnant women should avoid drinking. Another way to reduce the risk of mental retardation is to diagnose and treat metabolic conditions, such as PKU, soon after birth. It has been found that if “correct treatment is started soon enough and continued as long as needed, that a child will not have mental retardation” (CDCP, 2005). The CDCP also says that is important for women with PKU to follow a special diet when they are pregnant. It is very helpful to diagnose risk factors and mental retardation early, but it is never too late to begin treatment (UMHS, 2005).

There are many signs of mental retardation. For example, a child with mental retardation may: sit up, crawl, or walk later than other children; learn to talk later, or have trouble speaking; have trouble remembering things; have trouble understanding social rules; have trouble understanding the consequences of their actions; have trouble solving problems, and/or thinking logically (NDCCD, 2004). The limitations of some children with mental retardation won’t be obvious, and won’t be diagnosed until they enter school.

Some adults with mild retardation will be able to live by themselves and their disability might not be apparent to others. Mental Retardation is diagnosed by looking at two areas of development: an individual’s ability to learn, think, solve problems, and make sense of the world (measured by an IQ test), and whether or not an individual has skills needed to live independently (also called adaptive behavior or functioning) (NDCCD, 2004). An average IQ score is 100 and as stated before, those scoring below 70 are diagnosed with a certain level of mental retardation.

To measure adaptive behavior, children’s abilities to perform tasks such as getting dressed, feeding themselves, understanding and responding to speech, and interacting with family members and others, are compared to children of the same age with normal intelligence. After an initial diagnosis of mental retardation, specialists then look at the strengths and weaknesses of an individual, and consider how much support they will need at home, at school, and in the community. In using this approach, a realistic picture is given for each individual, which helps to determine how to work with him or her in order to promote development.

It is also known that this “picture” can change over time, as an individual’s ability to get along in the world will grow (NDCCD, 2004). As a mentally retarded child grows, the school can play an important role in encouraging their intellectual development. A child with mental retardation “is capable of doing well in school, but it is likely that they will need individualized help” (NDCCD, 2004). Every state is responsible for providing education to children with disabilities. There are some programs that begin at infancy and continue until age 3 (a time when another program is started).

This early intervention system requires the cooperation of parents and specialists to come up with an Individualized Family Services Plan, or IFSP. This plan will outline the specific needs of a child and also describe the ways in which the child’s needs will be met. The IFSP also focuses on the needs of the family so parents and other family members can take care of their young child with mental retardation (NDCCD, 2004). The cost of this program may be based on a family’s income, or in some states, may be free.

School-aged children (including preschoolers) with mental retardation are eligible for special education through the school system. Members of the school staff work with parents to formulate an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. School boards are required to tell parents of their rights regarding placement of their child in special education, and schools are required to develop an IEP for each special education child (UMHS, 2005). These programs also outline a child’s needs and the ways to meet those needs, and are provided at no extra cost to families.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, of 1997 mandates that children, including those with disabilities are entitled to an education that is free and appropriate (NYU Child Study Center, 2006). In addition, children with mental retardation are entitled to receive publicly funded education from the ages of three through twenty-one. Teachers who have mentally retarded children in their classroom should: learn as much as possible about mental retardation; use concrete materials that are age appropriate and interesting; be concrete when giving nstructions by demonstrating the task step-by-step; present information in small, sequential steps and review them frequently; teach skills that the child might use outside of the classroom; teach these children in the same school as other children, when possible and give immediate and frequent feedback (NDCCD, 2004, Carrol, 2006). If a teacher isn’t already part of a child’s IEP, then they should ask to have a copy and consult the school’s special education instructor to utilize the methods already outlined for that student’s success (NDCCD, 2004).

It is possible for persons with mental retardation to experience healthy lives, and there are several instances where mentally retarded persons live on their own and obtain jobs. As Carrol (2006) states, individuals with mental retardation “do not remain eternal children. ” They become adults and do need basic services that all people need for healthy development such as education, health services and recreation opportunities. It is important to encourage development in individuals with mental retardation at an early age, and to continue this support throughout their lives in order to allow them the freedom to grow as human beings.

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