Mental retardation is a brain development disorder characterized by an IQ score below average and an inability to carry out daily activities like normal people. Mental retardation is also known as intellectual disorder.
Mental retardation can occur at any time, even before the child is born. However, the symptoms of this disorder are usually only seen when the child enters a developmental period, namely at the age of less than 18 years.
People with mental retardation usually have difficulty adapting to their own conditions. As a result, sufferers need a lot of time and the involvement of many parties in order to carry out their daily activities normally.
Causes and Risk Factors for Mental Retardation
Mental retardation occurs due to disturbances in brain development. However, in certain cases, the cause of mental retardation is not known with certainty.
Some conditions that can cause interference with the development of a child's brain are:
- Injury, for example from a traffic or sports accident
- Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome
- Illnesses that affect brain function, such as brain infections (such as meningitis ), cerebral palsy , or brain tumors
- Disturbances during pregnancy, such as nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy, infection, consumption of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy , use of drugs, or preeclampsia
- Disturbances during childbirth, such as lack of oxygen in the baby or babies born prematurely
Symptoms of Mental Retardation
Symptoms of mental retardation in each sufferer can vary, ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms include:
- Difficulty speaking
- The ability to sit up, crawl, or walk independently is achieved more slowly than other children
- Difficulty learning everyday activities, such as dressing or eating
- Difficulty controlling emotions, such as irritability
- Inability to understand the consequences of actions taken
- Poor reasoning and difficulty solving a problem
- Bad memory
Other symptoms may also occur in people with severe mental retardation, such as seizures , visual disturbances, impaired body movement control, or hearing loss.
In addition, the patient's IQ score can also indicate the severity of the condition he is suffering from. The following is the severity of mental retardation based on the patient's IQ score:
- Mild, with an IQ score of around 50–69
- Medium, with an IQ score of around 35–49
- Heavy, with an IQ score of around 20–34
- Very severe, with an IQ score below 20
When to see a doctor
Mental retardation can generally be detected during the child's development. Therefore, do an examination to the doctor if your child shows symptoms of mental retardation.
Immediately take your child to the doctor if he has symptoms of mental retardation after having an accident, undergoing surgery, or having health problems that damage the brain.
Diagnosis of Mental Retardation
The doctor will ask the patient's parents about the symptoms experienced and the patient's medical history. Next, the doctor will make observations and physical examinations on the patient.
After that, the doctor will check the patient's intellectual abilities. Examinations carried out can be in the form of an IQ test and a test to check the patient's ability to adjust to his environment.
Doctors can also carry out further tests to find out the underlying causes of mental retardation, such as:
- Blood test, to detect health problems by examining a blood sample
- Urine test , to detect health problems by examining a urine sample
- Genetic tests, to check for possible genetic disorders
- Scanning with a CT scan or MRI, to detect abnormalities in the brain
- Electroencephalography (EEG), to measure the brain's electrical activity
In pregnant women, doctors can do ultrasound or take amniotic fluid samples ( amniocentesis ), to detect genetic abnormalities in the fetus.
Treatment of Mental Retardation
Mental retardation lasts a lifetime and cannot be cured. Even so, there are several specific therapies to develop the patient's ability so that the patient can carry out daily activities independently.
Special therapy must involve collaboration between a team of doctors, psychologists, teachers, caregivers, and the patient's parents. Treatment methods that can be done include:
- Occupational therapy , to teach patients how to do daily activities, such as eating, bathing, and dressing
- Speech therapy, to assist patients in developing communication skills
- Behavioral therapy, to change the patient's behavior to be more positive
- Physical therapy , to train patients in improving body movement function
In addition to some of the therapies above, doctors can also provide medication to relieve symptoms experienced by patients with severe mental retardation. The treatment given is:
- Anticonvulsant drugs , to treat seizures
- Muscle relaxants, to treat movement control disorders
- Hearing aids, to help patients with hearing loss
Parents can also help the development of children with mental retardation through the following efforts:
- Letting children try new things
- Tell children how to do things independently
- Pay attention to children's progress at school and help them re-learn what they have learned at school
- Involve children in group activities that require cooperation, communication, and interaction, such as scouts
- Finding out more about mental retardation, either by consulting a doctor or other parents with the same problem
Mental Retardation Complications
If left untreated, mental retardation can interfere with the sufferer's daily activities. This can affect his quality of life and cause several complications, such as:
- Anxiety disorder
- Uncooperative behavior, such as irritability, opposition, or self-harm
- Behavior repeats movements, sounds, or words
Prevention of Mental Retardation
Mental retardation is difficult to prevent. Even so, doctors can recommend several things to pregnant women to reduce the risk of their child being born with mental retardation, namely:
- Do not smoke
- Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages during pregnancy
- Do routine checks to the doctor to monitor fetal development
- Take vitamins as needed
- Get vaccinated to avoid certain infections
In women who are planning a pregnancy, it is advisable to do a genetic examination , especially if you have a family history of genetic disorders. This is to find out how much the risk of children inheriting the disorder.
Mental retardation caused by head injuries due to accidents can be prevented by using personal protective equipment when on the move. For example by wearing a seat belt when driving, or wearing personal protective equipment when working in a risky environment or while playing sports.