Mental retardation is a term for the pattern of slow learning in childhood that affects basic motor and language and which progresses into below-normal intellectual capacity when the child reaches adulthood. The term has been described as being politically-incorrect and clinicians prefer using the term developmental disabilities.


Symptoms of mental retardation are numerous. Children who have these particular disabilities may find themselves lagging behind in learning even basic skills such as sitting up, crawling, walking or talking. Other symptoms include problem with mastering speaking skills, memory problems, inability to understand social rules, cognitive inability to understand cause and effect, inability to solve even simple problems, illogical thinking, and persistent infantile behavior and mannerisms.


Treatment is based on the fact that mental retardation is not a disease but a disability. Even its more evident psychological and cognitive conditions should have treatment distinguished from those used for schizophrenia or depression. There is no cure of course for mental retardation, but there are numerous support groups and institutions and programs which ultimately help the person lead a normal and even productive life.


Specific causes of mental retardation include Downs syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and Fragile X syndrome. Other conditions that have been identified as also causing mental retardation include malnutrition, problems during pregnancy and during birth and mineral deficiencies.


There is an intellectual criteria for establishing that a person has developmental disability although the accepted standard to qualify is an intelligence quotient of 70 or below. Assessment is done by qualified professionals.