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Caring for Our People with Disabilities & Chronic Illness

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.... a condition in which a person has trouble learning, absorbing, and practicing everyday skills, which slows them from being able to take care of themselves and interact with others. This disorder is usually present from birth, although some cases of retardation can occur later in life.

Mental retardation is a condition that causes the affected child to have a slower than average mental development. He/she has problems in performing the usual tasks that are needed in order to take care of oneself. It takes longer to adapt to everyday life and their surroundings.

Mental retardation has various causes. In most cases, the answer to the question parents so often ask-
“What could we have done to prevent this?”
“Nothing. It was no one’s fault and there was nothing you could have done.”

Many cases of mental retardation are due to genes - either having a missing gene or chromosome or having too many chromosomes. The baby was born that way, and short of having a different mother or father, there is nothing that could have been done. Of course, if the baby had a different mother or father, he/she would be a different person and well - that is too deep a discussion for us to get into.

Other cases of mental retardation are caused by problems during the birth process, often when a baby is born prematurely or has the inability to get enough oxygen at birth. The medical terms you may see in records for this cause is anoxia (no oxygen) or hypoxia (not enough oxygen). These incidents affect the brain, thus causing retardation in some cases, and are also a common cause of cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Problems could come from the mother’s failure to take care of her body during pregnancy. The most well-known example of mental retardation caused during pregnancy is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

There are also cases when retardation occurs later in life; if the person gets into a severe accident or suffers from a major illness. Oddly enough, by definition, for a person to be considered mentally retarded this disability must occur before age 18. So, if you are in an accident, nearly drown and are left with severe brain damage when you are 25 years old, you don't meet the definition for mental retardation.

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