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Mental Retardation Diagnosis

(Also Known As: Retardation Diagnosis, Down Syndrome Diagnosis, Learning Disability Diagnosis, Mentally Retarded Diagnosis, Borderline Mental Retardation Diagnosis, Autism Mental Retardation Diagnosis)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

How is Mental Retardation Diagnosed?

In order for a condition to be diagnosed as mental retardation, three factors must be present 4:

  1. The onset of the disorder must take place before the child reaches the age of 18 years old.
  2. The intelligence level of the child must be below average. When choosing the testing instrument and interpretation of results, factors that impact test performance should be considered such as sociocultural background, motor and sensory disabilities, and native language. The severity of mental retardation determines the appropriate intervention method.
  3. There should be limited functioning in at least two of the following areas: communication, home living, self-direction, work, functional academic skills, leisure, social and interpersonal skills, health and safety, and use of community resources.

Mental retardation is diagnosed by considering two factors. First, the capacity of the individual to learn, think, find solutions to problems, and be able to make sense of their environment, called intellectual functioning. The second factor being considered by doctors is the adaptive functioning which includes the person’s daily living skills 5.

To test the intellectual capacity of the child, an IQ test is administered. The average score is 100 and individuals who score less than 70 or 75 is perceived as mentally retarded. For measuring adaptive behavior, the ability of the child is usually compared with other children belonging to their age group. Certain skills are important in the measurement of adaptive functioning. They include:

  1. Daily living skills like dressing self, going to the bathroom, and self-feeding.
  2. Communication skills, which includes the child’s ability to understand what was said and their capacity to respond
  3. Social skills with their peers, adults, immediate family, and others.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides the framework on how to detect mental retardation as well as the possible early intervention. Special education and related services will be provided to the child with learning disabilities.

The diagnosis of mental retardation is administered by a team of professionals, such as a pediatric neurologist, psychologist, speech pathologist, developmental pediatrician, special education specialist, social worker, nurse, and occupational or physical therapist.

Diagnosis of mental retardation consists of three components: interview with parents, observation of the child, and administration of norm-referenced tests. Tests such as Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV are used to measure intellectual ability. Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales are used to measure the child’s communication, daily living skills, social abilities, and motor skills. In order to come up with an accurate diagnosis, the clinician should integrate the results of the exam with the information they obtained from parents and direct observation of the child.

Could You Have Mental Retardation?

Mental Retardation Topics

Related Conditions

Asperger's Syndrome – restricted social interaction, repetitive behavior, non-verbal communication deficit, lacking empathy, clumsiness
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – neurobehavioral developmental disorder, inattention, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, chronic childhood disorder
Autism – impaired social interaction, communication deficit, brain developmental disorder
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder – developmental delay in language, motor skills and social function, autism, delayed motor skills
Learning Disorders – delayed development of functional skills, difficulty in organization of thoughts, academic skill deficits
Rett's Disorder – cognitive impairment, reduced socialization skills, lack of social interest
Selective Mutism – reluctant to speak even with speech ability, anxiety, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome