Mental retardation is a condition that is diagnosed early on in a child’s life and can be the result of a wide range of health influences. It is more commonly called intellectual disability nowadays and is characterised by impaired intellectual thinking or lack of the adaptive behaviours that allow most of us to get on with our day to day lives unsupervised.
While it only effects about 1% of the population, mental retardation can have huge impacts for family and friends who have to cope with the challenges it presents. Not only do parents and other family members have to come to terms with what is essentially a lifelong condition, they have to make huge changes to their own lives to ensure the safety and happiness of the individual involved.
Develop an Understanding of Intellectual Disability
The first thing you should do is to learn everything you can about the disability your friend or family member has. Every person is unique but you can give yourself a good deal of confidence and expertise in dealing with the condition by doing your research. That could mean searching online for resources but should also involve becoming part of support groups available in your area. It’s much better to be able to talk directly to someone who is going through the same challenges as you and gives you someone to turn to when there are problems.
Coming to Terms with Mental Retardation
In the initial stages, parents of children with an intellectual disability may have the tendency to blame themselves or even feel a sense of stigma because of the condition. They can find it difficult to handle behavioural issues such as screaming and crying and experience a sense of helplessness.
Having a child with this mental health issue can cause problems within the family and create worry about the future. If one family member has to give up their job to care for the individual, it can also cause resentment and hostility. This is why it’s important to get a strong support network in place so that the main carer doesn’t start feeling isolated as if they battling alone.
People with moderate to severe intellectual disability can be a major challenge as they may not be able to understand complex issues or express themselves very well. Most family carers will get a feel for this as they become more experienced but it can be a long process of discovery. Stay patient and get advice when you need it. Some people with an intellectual disability, for example, will find communicating difficult when there are distractions around such as too many people or too much noise. Many will have difficulty with abstract words so keeping language simple and straight forward will probably work better.
If you are dealing with a severe case of intellectual disability, then there will undoubtedly be times when you will need some respite care. This is most often provided by other members of the family who are known. Bringing in strangers to handle respite care can often be traumatic and problematic for those suffering from intellectual disability, particularly if they can’t understand why mum or dad are going away.
While it’s not easy when your child is diagnosed with mental retardation, there’s plenty of support out there to help. Parents want their children to make the most of their abilities and having kids with mental retardation is no different. They just have a few more hurdles to overcome than other children.