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Interventions for mental retardation often begin as early in life as possible, and typically include a combination of social and practical skills training. People who suffer from intellectual impairment generally have a harder time learning things, and will need extra help mastering practical life skills so that they can care for themselves more easily as time goes by. Social skills therapy is also considered an important part of most interventions for those with mental retardation, since the goal is typically to help the person integrate into society and live a normal life. People with intellectual impairments may have trouble grasping basic social conventions. They may need extra help learning how to carry on normal conversations, respect others' personal space, and feel confident in social situations.
With the help of interventions for mental retardation, most people suffering from this developmental disorder go on to hold down jobs among unimpaired coworkers. They are usually encouraged to share their homes with others, and are typically placed in living situations that mimic the situations of their non-developmentally disordered peers.
Treating intellectual impairments such as mental retardation is usually begun when the person is still a baby. Educational therapy can help the child learn important life skills, even before school begins. Once the child has started school, interventions for mental retardation typically involve allowing the child to interact frequently with all of his peers, rather than segregating him in a classroom of other developmentally disordered persons. The intellectually impaired student will need supplemental academic support, since learning does not typically come easy to him. Frequent and prolonged repetition of basic facts can help the student eventually learn them, and extra importance is usually placed on those areas of knowledge that will have practical applications throughout the person's life.
People suffering from developmental disorders often have trouble learning how to interact properly with others, so social skills training is usually a crucial part of interventions for mental retardation. Important social skills for those with developmental disorders range from learning how to properly groom oneself, to how to behave in public according to social convention, to how to understand figurative language and put questions and statements in context. Social skills training for people with intellectual impairments can involve education about what kinds of things are appropriate, and not appropriate, to say to others, as well as when and how to initiate physical or eye contact with others. Social skills, like academic skills, are typically practiced in a classroom setting, and students are typically asked to perform social skills "homework" in real life situations as well.
There's nothing sadder than seeing a mentally retarded child in a family of people who do not get that child the intervention he or she needs in order to live an independent life.
My dad taught special education and he had students who had been pretty much ignored until they were old enough to start school. The parents always seemed shocked the child was mentally retarded. He said by the time the child was five years old, so much therapy time had been lost that it was nearly impossible to make up the deficit. He said it was a tragic circumstance.
A co-worker had a child with Down Syndrome, and they started working with him before he was a year old. He had physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy -- at a year old!
If the parents know their child might be mentally retarded, then the earlier they can begin therapy, the better off the child will be.
He or she may not ever be of "normal" intelligence, but early intervention will often allow a mentally retarded person to live at least semi-independently, hold down a job and care for himself or herself. This is vitally important for parents who know their children will outlive them.
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