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Mental Retardation Diagnosis
Q: I have a 7 year old that has been to a doctor. He did 1 test and came back to tell me that she is mentally retarded. She is in the 2nd grade, has passed just fine, the teacher is only concern is that she sometimes has difficulty in following direction, both verbal and written(if she reads them out loud she does much better). The doctor said the IQ test results were 60's and 70's, what is the norm? Where should I go to further my understanding?
A: I am sure that this doctor's diagnosis of mental retardation was both shocking and confusing to you, especially given her doing well in second grade. It would have helped to know why she was tested to give you a more specific response, but allow me to give you a summary of how mental retardation is diagnosed and why it's so vital for this diagnosis to be the result of a thorough, comprehensive evaluation. I am basing my information on current diagnostic criteria and the work of the American Association on Mental Retardation (203-387-1968).
A diagnosis of mental retardation is based on three criteria: 1. IQ below 70-75, 2. Significant limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas (these are daily living skills necessary for life, work and play, like communication, home living, social skills, reading, writing and math) and 3. this condition being present from childhood.
The AAMR recommends a three-step process for diagnosing mental retardation:
- 1.A qualified specialist should administer one or more standardized IQ tests in addition to standardized adaptive skills tests on an individualized basis.
- 2.A description of the child's strengths and weaknesses should be documented in four dimensions:
- 1.Intellectual and adaptive behavioral skills
- 2.Psychological/emotional considerations
- 3.Physical/health/etiological considerations
- 4.Environmental considerations
- 1.An interdisciplinary team must determine the level of necessary supports across the aforementioned four dimensions. Each support area is assigned a level of intensity -- intermittent, limited, extensive and pervasive.
Thanks for writing and please let me know the results of your investigations.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.