What Is Mental Retardation?
Mental retardation is the name given to a number of conditions that cause people to have trouble learning and remembering basic information and social skills.
How Do I Know If Someone Is Retarded?
A person is said to suffer from mental retardation if he or she scores below 70 to 75 on an intelligence quotient test, or if he or she has functions at a significantly lower level than most kids their age (for instance, a fifteen year old who doesn’t know how to make a sandwich or tie his own shoes probably suffers from mental retardation).
Common signs that someone is retarded include the following:
Learning much more slowly than other kids at school, and perhaps having to have things explained several different times. This does not mean that a person who has trouble in one subject area is retarded—we are all slower at some subjects than others. A retarded person typically has trouble in almost all subject areas.
Social problems, such as laughing or talking too loud, saying the wrong thing (“Boy, are you fat!”), or not being able to make friends. A kid who has mental retardation may also have a difficult time learning games, which can make him or her unpopular.
Trouble responding to new situations such as a change in class schedule or a pop quiz.
What Causes Mental Retardation?
Mental retardation can be caused by many different things. Some types, like Down’s Syndrome, are a result of problems with the person’s genes (the building blocks of our bodies). Some kids may be mentally retarded because their mom was sick or not able to take care of herself very well when she was pregnant with them. Other mentally retarded kids have had accidents, such as bad head injuries or not getting enough oxygen at birth.
Is Mental Retardation Catching?
Absolutely not! Mental retardation is a condition caused by one or many different factors, not a disease. So even if a mentally retarded kid coughs or sneezes you, you won’t become mentally retarded.
What Should I Do If I Know Someone With Mental Retardation?
Treat them just like you would any other kid with a few exceptions:
If the kid seems confused when you’re talking, take a few extra minutes to explain what you are talking about. Be patient. You may need to explain yourself once, twice, or even a dozen times before the point sinks in. If you don’t think you’re getting the information across, ask another kid, a teacher or a parent to help you.
Don’t be too offended if the retarded child says or does something socially unusual, like making a loud comment about your appearance. It’s fine to say, “That hurt my feelings. Friends don’t usually say things like that about each other.”
Don’t make fun of mentally retarded kids. They can’t help the way they are, and as you probably know, it hurts to be teased about something that isn’t your fault.
Ask the child’s parents before you play any rough games. Many retarded kids aren’t very well coordinated and could fall and hurt themselves badly. Others might have medical reasons why they shouldn’t play rough.
If you aren’t sure whether you should or shouldn’t be doing something, talk to an adult. But remember, it’s always okay to be friendly!
When you first start hanging out with mentally retarded kids, you’ll probably feel awkward and a little shy, but as you make friends with retarded kids, you’ll soon realize that they are ordinary kids with the same feelings that you have—they just learn things a little more slowly.