Mental retardation appears in childhood before the age of 18. It is an impairment that leaves a persons overall intelligence quotient (IQ) is below average. Individuals with mental retardation lack the ability to deal with the demands of life and lack some of the daily living skills expected of people of their age group. Paula Ford-Martin states that “Mental retardation occurs in 2.5%-3% of the general population. About 6-7.5 million mentally retarded individuals live in the United States alone” (Ford-Martin).

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The intelligence quotient is a “[…] numerical expression of someone’s performance on a standard intelligence test” (Thorne 24). The IQ test only has value to the psychologist. To diagnose mental retardation, it takes a group of professionals from across the board: physicians, social workers, psychologists, educators, and vocational rehabilitation experts. The diagnosis will give information about the individual’s past, present, and future plans (Thorne 25). There are four degrees of severity: “mild, moderate, severe, and profound.” “Mild IQ ranges from 50-75, moderate 35-55, severe 20-40, and profound 20-25.” These categories are based on the functioning level of the individual (Ford-Martin).
85 percent of people with mental retardation are affected mildly. People with mild retardation can not be distinguished from normal children until they attend school. Mildly affected individuals learn more slowly but can usually develop academic skills equal to that of a sixth grader. They can marry and have children. The mildly retarded can work and live in the community if they can be helped when faced with social or economic stress (Ford-Martin).
10 Percent of people with mental retardation are moderately retarded. Academically, they progress to the second grade level. They have good self-care skills such as going to the bathroom, eating, and dressing themselves. They can work at skilled and unskilled jobs with supervision. They are more likely living within their community in a facility such as a group home (Ford-Martin).
About 3-4 percent suffers from severe retardation. These individuals may learn to talk during childhood, and develop some basic self-care skills. They can perform simple tasks under close supervision. They often live in a group home or with their families.
1-2 percent of mentally retarded has profound retardation and requires constant care twenty four hours a day. They understand some language, but have little ability to speak. There is often a neurological condition that accounts for their retardation (Ford-Martin).
Limitations and low IQ skills are definite in mental retardation. Other traits associated with the disability include aggression, self-injury, and mood disorders. The exact cause can be identified in 60-70 percent of mental retardation cases, Some cases having more than one cause. These causes include disorders that occur as a fetus develops during pregnancy, genetic disorders, and problems during or after birth. Mental retardation in most cases is caused by an inherited abnormality of the genes. Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited case of mental retardation, it determines sex. Chromosomal disorders such, as Down syndrome are not necessary inherited. The parents can have perfect genes but the defect occurs from a random error when the chromosomes reproduce (Ford-Martin).
Many problems during pregnancy can cause mental retardation in a child. Use of alcohol or drugs; viral infections, including German measles; malnutrition; toxins such as lead; and untreated diseases such as diabetes can cause mental retardation if complication arises. Mental retardation can be preventable through immunizations, if not immunized; these diseases can lead to encephalitis and meningitis, which can cause brain damage. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes mental retardation as a result of excessive consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Some cases of mental retardation are caused during birth, including premature births, and stresses to the fetus (Ford-Martin).
Environmental factors play a role in a child’s development. If infants are not provided the physical and mental stimulation required for normal development, learning impairments become irreversible. Impoverished children and those suffering from malnutrition are at higher risk (Ford-Martin). Screening programs for infant’s and adults can eliminate some cases of mental retardation. In infants the blood can be screened to see if there are any inherited conditions that may lead to mental retardation and they can be treated. In adults the test can identify carriers of the condition before a child is conceived. Those who have a family history of mental retardation can seek genetic counseling. Specialized test like amniocentesis can detect Down syndrome and other genetic disorders early in the pregnancy.
Mental retardation is an impairment that affects 6-7.5 million individuals in the United States. It appears in childhood before the age of 18. The individual’s intelligence quotient is measured, and a group of professionals will diagnose the severity of retardation. There are four degrees of severity mild, moderate, severe, and profound. These categories are based on the functioning level of the individual. It is essential to seek prenatal care at the start of the pregnancy. The proper care, avoidance of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, and current immunizations against childhood diseases can prevent some forms of mental retardation (Ford-Martin).

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