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The Mentally Challenged Child

Mandira is a 5-year-old girl who is not toilet-trained as yet. Her father finds her an embarrassment and does not invite his friends over to the house. Her mother is quite sick of training her and the maids of cleaning up. They finally decided to take her to a doctor where they found out that her growth was retarded due to a mental deficiency. This meant that she had a low I.Q. No wonder her teachers complained about her so much. Until now everyone thought that she was just a little slow on the uptake. This is what normally happens in borderline cases. They sometimes go undetected for awhile.

How do you rate mental deficiency?

 As explained earlier, this depends on the I.Q. of the child. There are many psychological tests available to measure the intelligence or mental functioning of the child. So when the mental age is divided by the chronological age and multiplied by a hundred, what you get is the Intelligence Quotient or the I.Q.

An I.Q. above 140 is the sign of a genius. An average to very intelligent child would score between 100 - 120 and a dull child would score between 80 - 90. Mandira's case was a borderline deficiency and she scored between 70 -84. So we can safely say that those children having an I.Q. under 80 are mentally deficient and therefore challenged children.

A classification of the mentally subnormal
Borderline cases
70 - 84
Mild cases(educable)
55 - 69
Moderate cases(trainable)
40 - 54
Severely deficient
25 - 39
Highly severe
below 25

Causes and effects of mental deficiency

One of the strongest factors is hereditary. Besides this there are a number of environmental factors that contribute to mental arrest. Most common of which is brain damage, malnutrition or infection during pregnancy or even an excessive intake of drugs and RH incompatibility. Whatever the cause, if the handicap is very severe, the entire development of the child gets affected - physical, social and emotional along with mental. Some of these children can not perform the simplest of tasks that we all seem to take for granted. Simple things like walking straight, eating or toilet training. A great amount of patience and tolerance is required to supervise and handle such a child.

How should one deal with such a problem?

The earlier the problem is detected the better it is for you and your child. Sometimes parents try to hide the fact until it becomes apparent to all, and by then it is too late to get timely help. There are plenty of child guidance centres and special schools around to provide the perfect environment to aid in the development of the child. But if these facilities are not utilized, a mentally deficient child will definitely develop severe social and emotional problems as well.

Parents should try to accept the fact that their child is mentally challenged and help him or her grow to the full potential that he or she is capable of. Some people try for a miraculous cure and expend a lot of time and energy in search of a divine elixir. Even though such an attitude is understandable, it does not show any results. That time will be better spent in admitting your child to a special school or sheltered institution where he can get professional help.

Such schools teach the child how to survive and progress in our world. Special skills are taught to them to help them make good use of their time and lives. Each child is given a task that suits his or her mental growth. Sensory training and perceptual knowledge is stressed on and children are taught utilitarian tasks that will help the child to be more independent. This is normally taught through drill and repetition over a period of years.

Besides schools, parents and family members at home also must provide a secure environment for the development of the abilities and interests of the mentally retarded. Parents should not feel awkward and should help their child to socialise with family members, relatives and friends. Subnormal children need more love and affection than the normal child does or they tend to get frustrated. They might not be able to express their needs. So it is up to you to anticipate what they want and give them all the love and strength that they require to help them develop to their full potential. 

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