Types of Mental Retardation

Individuals with mental retardation are not a homogenous group but have widely differing lev els of functioning. While the term mental retardation still exists as a clinical diagnosis, experts today prefer terms such as developmental disability, which some believe does not carry the same negative connotations. In the past, those who were retarded were traditionally divided by IQ scores into educa-ble, trainable, and custodial; today, the more commonly used terms include mild, moderate, severe, or profound categories, based on the level of functioning and IQ.

Mild retardation This classification is used to specify an individual whose IQ test scores lie between 55 and 68 or 69, and it corresponds to an educators' label of "educable retarded." The individual is capable of learning basic academic subjects. Many people with mild retardation are able to live and work independently.

Moderate retardation Children who are moderately retarded have an IQ test score between 40 and 55; the term corresponds to the earlier label of "trainable retarded." These children can usually learn basic school and job skills and often achieve coached job goals and live with limited assistance.

Severe and profound mental retardation This classification applies to children with IQ scores below 25. These children are the most seriously impaired of the mentally retarded, often characterized by physical and sensory impairment as well as mental retardation. They can sometimes achieve supported job goals, but more typically they function in sheltered employment. They generally require significant assistance with daily living skills.

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