Development of Children with Mental Retardation

At the on set, the term mental retardation has been viewed by many as a stigmatizing term. Thus, authorities in this field of study from different societies had come up with a less stigmatizing term. The British Commonwealth and the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities referred to it as “intellectual disability” (Ainsworth, P. & Baker, P. 2004, p. vii), while Stephen R. Schroeder of the University of Kansas and his colleagues favor the term “learning disability. ” Other more specific descriptors include Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.

Mental retardation is a disability in the developmental process that may come out from birth through the age of eighteen (health & disease information) In their book Understanding Mental Retardation, Patricia Ainsworth and Pamela C. Baker (2004), explained that mental retardation is a “syndrome of delayed or disordered brain development before age 18 years that results in difficulty learning information and skills needed to adapt quickly and adequately to environmental changes” (p.

3) Its causes according to Ainsworth and Baker includes the genetic factors or the so called heredity factor, environmental factors which is link to an impoverished environment, and prenatal influence which has something to do with nutrition. Physical development of Children with mental retardation In his article in a paper published by the Ohio State University entitled “Stimulating Physical Development of Mentally Retarded Children” Julian U. Stein noted the importance of an active, vigorous life in the development of sound mind and sound physical body (p. 1).

Stein cited Plato’s statement emphasizing that, lack of physical activity destroys the excellent condition of the individual human being, and that orderly work outs and movements preserve that condition (p. 1). Herbert Jennings in 1917 also disclosed that through play the child learns and develops better than through any other activity (p. 1). Stein stressed that children with mental retardation should not spent their days idle, inactive or passive, and merely gaining weight as this will adversely affect their total physical development as the child’s motor development correlates with play activities.

Children with mental retardation should not be deprived of the opportunity to play and to engaged in physical exercise because it will not only help them to gain better physical development it will also facilitates better social, and intellectual development depending on the severity of their mental illness. Language Development Children with mental retardation like their normal peers are capable to adapt skills needed for daily communication such as language (Pruthi, G. ).

However, Gauri Pruthi cited that although children with mental retardation are capable to adapt a language, infants with mental retardation were behind by about two months compared to their normal peers in their language development. On the other hand, studies done by Bruner, 1975 and Tomasello 1992 as cited by Pruthi, stated that the early social and communicative accomplishments are seen as essential prerequisite for various aspect of language acquisition. In their book Handbook of Mental Retardation and Development, Jacob Burack and Robert M.

Hodapp (1998) emphasized that language acquisition “is one of our most remarkable achievements” which are normally achieved within the first two to three years from birth (p. 208). Yet for children with mental retardation, Burack and Hodapp pointed out that, at this age “they may only be beginning to move down this pathway, having learned just a few words to name the important people in their lives and significant objects or some expressions for regulating social interactions” (p.

208). However, not all children who are late in beginning to talk have mental retardation problem as some of these children do catch up a little time later. The problem therefore is how to distinguish which normal and which is having mental retardation. Maria R. Brassard and Ann E. Boehm (2007) point out that most children with low cognitive skills “exhibit disruptions in all areas of language, as well as delays in most areas of development” (p. 337).

Thus, in order to assessed children’s wellness, and language comprehension, Brassard and Boehm present a model of communication develop by Abbeduto and Nuccio, which requires assessment in four domains namely; Linguistic ability (mastery of syntax, vocabulary, and phonology), the Cognitive ability (memory); Social skills (perspective taking); and Pragmatic competence (knowledge and skill specific to the process of communicating with others) that would help determine the mental condition of the children for early intervention if they have mental problem.

Cognitive development Mental retardation is defined as the “sub average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior, and manifested during the developmental period” (Grossman 1977, as cited by Wachs, T & Sheehan, R. 1998, p. 16). This definition indicates that children with mental retardation have consistent skills and cognitive functioning deficits. Marilyn Jane Field, Alan M. Jette, and Linda G.

Martin (2005) pointed out that mental retardation is “characterized by a delayed progression” and is an ultimate “failure to achieve the ability to perform formal operations at maturity…” (p. 69). Field, Jette, and Martin stated that the severity of mental retardation “corresponded to fixation at lower stages of cognitive development” (p. 69). Therefore cognitive development of children with severe mental retardation fixated at a lower stage which impaired not only their intellectual capacity but also their normative behavioral development.

The impaired intellectual capacity is clearly seen in the experiment conducted at Kansas University by John Belmont and Earl Butterfield in the 1970s as cited by Norman Bray, Kevin Reilly, Lisa Huffman, Kathryn Fletcher, and Mark Villa in their article entitled “Mental Retardation and Cognitive Competencies” in which the participants were asked to remember some items in their order of presentation.

In this experiment, it yielded that children with mental retardation had a poor recall and they were found to have deficiencies in various memory task and were particularly found to be deficit in memory-related processes such as in the rapidity of processing and the inhibition of irrelevant information (Bray, N. et,al). Psychological Development

It is generally held by various professionals in the field that a normal and healthy socio emotional development during the first 3 years of life is necessary for the normal mental health and personality development. Anton Dosen and Kenneth Dy (2001) aptly stated that children with mental health retardation “follow the similar sequence and are predisposed to make psychosocial developmental structures as usual children” (p. 418). Mental retardation usually manifest during early childhood often during the first and second year of the child’s life.

Dosen and Dy points out, “but the socio-emotional development of mentally retarded children during the first 3 years may be susceptible to various obstacles—genetic, organic, environmental” (Dosen & Dy, p. 418). Dosen and Dy explained that children with mental retardation are usually delayed in their totality of psychological development because it is generally held that children with mental retardation shows maturational lag in different cortical areas (Dosen and Dy, p.418).

Achieving quality life then for children with mental retardation can be ensured through early intervention. An internet article entitled “Mental Retardation” point out that it is important for parents, pediatricians, and other health care providers to be familiar with recognizable signs to be able to make an early intervention which is a crucial component to ensure maximum quality of life for these children (Mental Retardation).

However, many researchers believed that children with mental retardation experience regressions under condition of cognitive challenge. Professional and parental interventions As it has been partly said above, early intervention is essential to the effective treatment of children with mental retardation. Linda Seligman and Lourie W. Reichenberg cited that special education, home health care, language simulation and social skills training at an early age “can have a great impact on treatment outcomes” (p.65).

But above all these, some practical family matters such as showing family affection, love, acceptance, and other loving concern should be generously given to these children by their families as they grow up. I Nothing can replace the loving concern of the family for their member to grow normal and healthy. Questions for discussion that parents may have to ask 1. ) Suppose my child is proven to have mental retardation, is there be any clinical treatment available for my child’s condition?

2.) If my child is diagnosed to have severe mental retardation, should the child be isolated from his peers to protect him? 3. ) Are there any therapeutic drugs that are available in the market that can help my child to become normal? 4). my child is 6 years old with severe mental retardation, what would be some possible effect if he is put in isolation from other normal kids? 5). Are there any kind foods that are may be detrimental to my child’s condition? 6). could there be a possibility that early intervention can help my child grow normal?


Ainsworth, P. & Baker, C. (2004) Understanding Mental Retardation USA: University of Mississippi.

Bray, N. W.; Reilly, K. D.; Huffman, L. F.; Fletcher K. L.; Villa, M.; & Anumolu V. Mental Retardation and Cognitive Competencies.

Brassard, M.R. & Boehm, A. (2007) Preschool Assessment USA:  The Guilford Press

Burack, J. A. & Hodapp, R. M. (1998) Handbook of Mental Retardation and Development USA: Cambridge University Press

Dosen, A. & Dy, K. (2001) Treating Mental Illness and Behavior Disorders in Children and Adults with Mental Retardation USA: American Psychiatric Publishing

Field, M. J.; Jette, A.M.; Martin, L. G. (2005) Workshop on Disability in America, a New Look