Mental Retardation

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is mental retardation?

Intellectual disability (ID), once called mental retardation which was characterized by below-average intelligence or mental ability and a lack of skills necessary for day-to-day living. People with intellectual disabilities can and do learn new skills, but they learn them more slowly. There are varying degrees of intellectual disability, from mild to profound.

Severe cases of ID are diagnosed at birth. However, you might not realize your child has a milder form of ID until they fail to meet common developmental goals. Almost all cases of ID are diagnosed by the time a child reaches 18 years of age.

Someone with intellectual disability has limitations in two areas. These areas are:

  • Intellectual functioning. Also known as IQ, this refers to a person’s ability to learn, reason, make decisions, and solve problems.
  • Adaptive behaviors. These are skills necessary for day-to-day life, such as being able to communicate effectively, interact with others, and take care of oneself.

How common is Mental Retardation?

Mental retardation can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of mental retardation?

The common symptoms of Mental Retardation are:

  • Failure to meet intellectual standards;
  • Sitting, crawling, or walking later than other children;
  • Problems learning to talk or trouble speaking clearly;
  • Memory problems;
  • Inability to understand the consequences of actions;
  • Inability to think logically;
  • Childish behavior inconsistent with the child’s age;
  • Lack of curiosity;
  • Learning difficulties;
  • IQ below 70;
  • Inability to lead a normal life due to challenges communicating, taking care of themselves, or interacting with others.

If your child has ID, they will probably experience some of the following behavioral issues:

  • Aggression;
  • Dependency;
  • Withdrawal from social activities;
  • Attention-seeking behavior;
  • Depression during adolescent and teen years;
  • Lack of impulse control;
  • Passivity;
  • Tendency toward self-injury;
  • Stubbornness;
  • Low self-esteem;
  • Low tolerance for frustration;
  • Psychotic disorders;
  • Difficulties paying attention.

In children with severe or profound intellectual disability, there may be other health problems as well. These problems may include seizures, mood disorders (anxiety, autism, etc.), motor skills impairment, vision problems, or hearing problems.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

 If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes mental retardation?

The most common causes of intellectual disability are:

  • Genetic conditions: These include things like Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.
  • Problems during pregnancy: Things that can interfere with fetal brain development include alcohol or drug use, malnutrition, certain infections, or preeclampsia.
  • Problems during childbirth: Intellectual disability may result if a baby is deprived of oxygen during childbirth or born extremely premature.
  • Illness or injury: Infections like meningitis, whooping cough, or the measles can lead to intellectual disability. Severe head injury, near-drowning, extreme malnutrition, infections in the brain, exposure to toxic substances such as lead, and severe neglect or abuse can also cause it.
  • None of the above: In two-thirds of all children who have intellectual disability, the cause is unknown.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for mental retardation?

There are many risk factors for mental retardation, such as:

  • Having a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, with a mental illness.
  • Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one’s death or a divorce;
  • An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes;
  • Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head;
  • Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or being assaulted;
  • Using of alcohol or recreational drugs;
  • Being abused or neglected as a child;
  • Having few friends or few healthy relationships;
  • A previous mental illness.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information


How is Mental Retardation diagnosed?

To be diagnosed with ID, your child must have below average intellectual and adaptive skills. Your child’s doctor will perform a three-part evaluation:

  • Interviews with you;
  • Observations of your child;
  • Standard tests.

Your child will be given standard intelligence tests, such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. This will help the doctor determine your child’s IQ. The doctor may also administer other tests such as the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. This test provides an assessment of your child’s daily living skills and social abilities, compared to other children in the same age group.

It’s important to remember that children from different cultures and socioeconomic statuses may perform differently on these tests. To form a diagnosis, your child’s doctor will consider the test results, interviews with you, and observations of your child.

Laboratory and imaging tests may also be performed. These can help your child’s doctor detect metabolic and genetic disorders, as well as structural problems with your child’s brain. Other conditions, such as hearing loss, learning disorders, neurological disorders, and emotional problems can also cause delayed development. If a baby has physical abnormalities that suggest a genetic or metabolic disorder, a variety of tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis. These include blood tests, urine tests, imaging tests to look for structural problems in the brain, or electroencephalogram (EEG) to look for evidence of seizures. Your child’s doctor should rule these conditions out before diagnosing your child with ID.

In children with developmental delays, the doctor will perform tests to rule out other problems, including hearing problems and certain neurological disorders. If no other cause can be found for the delays, the child will be referred for formal testing.

How is mental retardation treated?

Your child will probably need ongoing counseling to help them cope with their disability. You will get a family service plan that describes your child’s needs. The plan will also detail the services that your child will need to help them with normal development. Your family needs will also be addressed in the plan.

The main goal of treatment is to help your child reach their full potential in terms of education, social skills, and life skills. Treatment may include behavior therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and in some cases, medication.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Mental Retardation?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with mental retardation:

  • Learn everything you can about intellectual disabilities: The more you know, the better advocate you can be for your child.
  • Encourage your child’s independence: Let your child try new things and encourage your child to do things by himself or herself. Provide guidance when it’s needed and give positive feedback when your child does something well or masters something new.
  • Get your child involved in group activities: Taking an art class or participating in Scouts will help your child build social skills.
  • Stay involved: By keeping in touch with your child’s teachers, you’ll be able to follow his or her progress and reinforce what your child is learning at school through practice at home.
  • Get to know other parents of intellectually disabled children: They can be a great source of advice and emotional support.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: December 9, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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