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Understanding Mental Retardation

Understanding Mental Retardation

Patricia Ainsworth
Pamela Baker
Copyright Date: 2004
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  • Book Info
    Understanding Mental Retardation
    Book Description:

    What measures can parents and advocates take to insure that people who have mental retardation live full, rewarding lives from infancy to old age?

    Understanding Mental Retardationexplores a diverse group of disorders from their biological roots to the everyday challenges faced by this special population and their families. With parents and those who care for people who have mental retardation in mind, Patricia Ainsworth and Pamela C. Baker write in a style that is at once accessible, informative, and sympathetic to the concerns of those affected.

    The authors provide practical information that will assist families and other advocates in obtaining needed services. They discuss assessment and treatment, education and employment, social and sexual adjustment, as well as regulatory and legal issues.

    This book covers the causes of mental retardation, the signs and symptoms of the most common forms of these disorders, and issues of prevention. For the sake of comparison, the book describes basic concepts of normal human development and references the history of Western civilization's responses to those with mental retardation.

    Understanding Mental Retardationsheds new light on mental illnesses that can complicate the lives of those with mental retardation, and the way symptoms of mental illness may appear confused or masked in a patient with mental retardation. Along with information on treatments and diagnoses, the book offers contact information for governmental resources, as well as a brief summary of the legal issues pertaining to mental retardation in America.

    Patricia Ainsworth is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and has a private practice in Ridgeland, Mississippi. She is the author ofUnderstanding Depression(University Press of Mississippi).

    Pamela C. Baker is director of the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach, Mississippi. She is also an independent consultant in management and disabilities administration and co-editor ofEmbarking on a New Century: Mental Retardation at the End of the 20th Century.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-053-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-2)

    The true mark of a civilized society may be the manner in which it deals with members who are unlike others. Defining or categorizing people is our mechanism for understanding and coping with variance. In doing so, we often lose sight of our greater similarities. This generalization is especially true of the group of individuals currently described as “mentally retarded.”

    The term mental retardation is familiar to most Americans, but the term and its variants (mentally retarded, retardation, retarded, mentally deficient, etc.) are not universally accepted; many believe that it stigmatizes and promotes a negative image. While mental retardation is...

  4. 1. What Is Mental Retardation and Who Is Affected?
    (pp. 3-36)

    Mental retardation is a syndrome of delayed or disordered brain development evident before age 18 years that results in difficulty learning information and skills needed to adapt quickly and adequately to environmental changes.

    Effective prevention of mental retardation is stymied because there are so many different causes. More than one possible cause is suggested in as many as 50% of cases. The causes may include genetic factors, prenatal influence, and environmental factors following birth. For 75% of children with mild symptoms and 30–40% of those with severe symptoms, no specific cause is apparent.

    Psychosocial issues have also been implicated...

  5. 2. Normal Development
    (pp. 37-49)

    The template for normal human development allows for variation within limits. Students of human development have studied the process primarily by observation, laying down so-called “milestones of development” (Appendix B) as guides to predicting the acquisition of intellectual and motor abilities over time. Human development does not cease with puberty, but continues throughout life so long as the brain and body are reasonably healthy. The theories of normal human development provide the background for understanding abnormalities, including mental retardation, and the impact of those abnormalities on the lives of those affected.

    Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist credited by many as...

  6. 3. Evolving Concepts of Mental Retardation
    (pp. 50-73)

    Mental retardation is by no means new. It neither emerged in response to the increasing sophistication and demands of our modern educational system nor suddenly erupted due to environmental pollution so prevalent in 20th century civilization. Mental retardation has always been with us.

    Historical references to mental retardation can be found as far back as the therapeutic papyri of Thebes (Luxor), Egypt, around 1552 B.C.E. The plight of mentally retarded people has been and still is dependent on the customs and beliefs of the culture. In ancient Greece in the city-state Sparta, neonates were examined by a state council of...

  7. 4. The First Six Years: Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool Children
    (pp. 74-85)

    Life’s early years are critical. A baby or young child is the precursor of the adult. A lifetime’s aspirations, nurtured during pregnancy, come into focus during a child’s first years. Childhood, particularly the first six years, is the most critical, irreplaceable time for closing gaps left by disabilities or delays. Early intervention is vital to diminish those effects.

    Prior to 1975, states faced few, if any, federal mandates for educational services. Specialized supports were limited. With meager services, families either educated their children at home or chose out-of-home residential placement. Years of disregard and unconcern slowly galvanized parent and advocacy...

  8. 5. School-Aged Children, Adolescents, and Teenagers
    (pp. 86-103)

    A child’s life from 5 to 18 years is a busy, challenging period. During adolescence, as Erik Erikson noted, young people focus on school and friends. They learn to work productively and independently while seeking their unique identity. Though these years may be more difficult for people with disabilities, appropriate supports may “level the playing field.”

    Public Law 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA), applies to children of school age, adolescents, and teenaged youth. The act defines participation with peers who are not disabled and requires modified practices to achieve “education in the general curriculum.”


  9. 6. The Adult Years
    (pp. 104-121)

    As people become more independent, meaningful parental support need not be relinquished. Parents, siblings, family, and friends may be lifelong sources of friendship, counsel, and aid. This becomes more important to those with mental retardation. This chapter speaks to needs and concerns of mentally retarded adults.

    Over the first 18 years, people mature gradually. Some gain skills with little or minimal difficulty. Others advance in certain areas but may lag in others. In truth, few people are ready to assume every adult right or responsibility as they reach the age of majority. Through a network of significant people, a young...

  10. 7. The Elderly
    (pp. 122-132)

    Before the 1950s, people with mental retardation usually died relatively young due to complications of multiple medical conditions that seem to cluster with mental retardation. In general, they represented one of the most vulnerable segments of the population.

    More recently their life expectancy has expanded to very nearly that of the general population. Simultaneously, families began a search for more and different services. They lobbied for educational and vocational opportunities and pushed for living options to replace institutional care for all but the most severely disabled.

    As longevity has increased in the general population, concern for the rights and quality...

  11. 8. Psychiatric Illness and Mental Retardation
    (pp. 133-154)

    Mental retardation is associated with an increased risk for other disorders that originate in the brain, including seizure disorders and mental or behavioral disorders. The term “dual diagnosis” is now frequently used to refer to the simultaneous presence of mental illness with another serious disorder, such as mental retardation.

    Mental illnesses are severe disturbances in mood, behavior, and/or thought processes that usually result in significant social and interpersonal difficulties. Most of the mental illnesses that afflict the general population also occur in people with mental retardation, often with increased frequency.

    Prior to the 1970s, clinicians working with retarded individuals tended...

  12. 9. Research on the Future of Prevention and Treatment of Mental Retardation
    (pp. 155-165)

    The mapping of the human genome is nearing completion. Although a momentous accomplishment, this is only a first step in the dawning era of gene therapy for many of the worst human disorders, including mental retardation. Identifying single gene forms of mental retardation may pave the way to effective gene therapy for these disorders in the near future. For mental retardation syndromes resulting from complicated interactions of multiple genes, effective gene therapy must wait until the complex interplay can be unraveled. Retardation syndromes caused by environmental factors may benefit from gene therapy if damage to genes or their protein products...

  13. Appendix A Who May Benefit from Genetic Counseling? (Center for Medical Genetics)
    (pp. 166-166)
  14. Appendix B Milestones of Human Development
    (pp. 167-173)
  15. Appendix C Selected Federal Legislation and Regulations Pertinent to Mental Retardation
    (pp. 174-184)
  16. Appendix D Selected Governmental and Organizational Resources
    (pp. 185-196)
  17. Index
    (pp. 197-200)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)