Mental retardation may manifest as an independent condition, or as an indicative symptom of a developmental disorder or syndrome.
Mental retardation is a generalized psychological disorder. It is characterized by impaired cognitive functioning and deficits of two or more adaptive behavior. It hits before the age of 18. Earlier, however, the focus of this condition was completely on cognition. Today, it includes a component related to mental functioning as well as one related to an individual's functional skills in their own environment in general.

In children, it is often referred to as mild intellectual disability (MID) and is regarded as a learning disability. A student, person, or child with MID, is mostly approximated to be functioning 2 to 4 years behind his/her age. Moreover, they normally have an IQ level below 70 or 75. The condition is mostly detected during childhood and the initial student years itself. In fact, most academic counselors are well trained to detect and diagnose this problem.

A student suffering from such a problem is capable of studying under normal classroom conditions with just a few modifications and accommodations. They take a little longer and a little bit more effort to master a specific subject as compared to peers with normal mental health, but they can overcome the shortfall with a little extra attention and support.

How Can One Identify a Student with Mild Mental Retardation?
Mental retardation symptoms are mostly detected and confirmed with the help of tests and assessments. While different places have different ways of defining disability and other mental illnesses, they always include IQ test scores. You can try taking regular legitimate IQ tests at home as well, to ensure and keep track of the disability. Adaptive skills, cognitive tests in various fields, as well as skill-based tests form a major part of the assessments. There are no definitive behavioral symptoms that are exhibited, and hence, the problem can often go unnoticed as a difficulty in grasping and remembering concepts.

What are the Characteristics?
  • The student or child will be 2 to 4 years behind in their cognitive development, This also includes development in math, languages, attention span, memory and grasping power, as well as speech development.
  • Social behavior also gets impacted due to the retardation. The child will seem childish and immature. Obsessive compulsive behavior is also observed to quite an extent. The child will show a lack of understanding of verbal and/or non-verbal cues and gestures. They may seem like rule breakers, but for a child suffering from this disability, following rules becomes difficult.
  • Adaptive skills are also quite undeveloped. The child may seem clumsy. He/she will also not show a lot of interest and inclination towards personal hygiene and life skills.
  • The child will be a typical example for low self-esteem and self-confidence. This is because of the frustration that they face on account of being slightly slower than their peers. These children will mostly prefer to stay aloof and out of the limelight.
  • The child will show a difficulty in differentiating between concrete and abstract thought. They will have trouble distinguishing between figurative and literal language.
These characteristics may not be very obvious and overt, but they will be present to a certain extent.

How to Help a Mentally Retarded Person?
There are a few steps that can be taken to make things more comfortable for someone in such a situation. This can aid them in effectively adapting to their environment in order to live with minimal impediments.
  • Use short and simple statements at a time during a conversation.
  • Repeat instructions, and give clarifications and explanations. Ask them if they need more explanation, from time to time.
  • Make sure distractions are to the bare minimum.
  • Be very specific while teaching skills. Do not expect them to "understand and get the point".
  • Be supportive and understanding. The support can help them overcome the disability, and increase their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Make things simpler and easier for them as far as possible.
  • Use alternative teaching techniques and testing methods.
  • Be supportive and help them deal with social and peer pressure. Help them make friends and lead as normal a life as possible.
  • Be patient and tolerating. Do not lose your temper on the child. This will push him more into his shell, making it more difficult to overcome the problem.
All these steps need to be taken at all stages, in the house, in schools, as well as any social environment that the child frequents.

Mild mental retardation is not contagious. So, if you know of anyone suffering from it, avoiding them is only going to make the situation worse for them. Instead, be friendly, and help and support them. This will help them improve faster.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.