Mental disability

Author: 
Adoptive Families Association of BC
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Definition
This term describes significant deficits in an individual's intellectual functioning and social adaptive behaviour originating during the developmental period from birth to 18 years old. The vast majority of people with a mental disability are in the mild range (IQ 50-70). Mental disability is not a disease and should not be confused with mental illness.

Causes
Causes of mental disability can be:

  • Prenatal infections
  • Birth delivery complication
  • Childhood illness
  • Trauma from abuse and deprivation
  • Accidents
  • Toxins and genetic or chromosome disorder
  • Inadequate medical care

Characteristics
Children who are mentally disabled are slow or delayed in all areas of development (thinking, speaking, motor skills, social-emotional growth, and self-help). They learn and progress more slowly than others and always require assistance and repetition in accomplishing tasks. For example, children with mental disability may sit up, crawl or walk later than other children, learn to talk later, find it hard to remember things, have trouble understanding social rules, have trouble solving problems and/or have trouble thinking logically. It is necessary to point out that some children may not even be diagnosed as having mental retardation until they go to school.

Treatment
Children with mental disability are able to learn, develop, and grow. They need appropriate educational services from infancy throughout the developmental period and beyond. A person with more severe retardation will need more intensive support his or her entire life.

Complications
Complications vary, but may include:

  • Social isolation
  • Inability to care for self
  • Inability to interact with others appropriately

This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.