Identifying children with intellectual disability

April 20, 2018 17:40
There are several signs to identify children with intellectual disability, experts say. Parents are urged to detect those signs early to help the kids improve themselves. Photo: Reuters

Mental retardation (MR) is a developmental disability that results in an individual showing far-below-average intelligence or mental ability and a lack of skills necessary for everyday life.

It is evaluated by four gradings: mild, moderate, severe and profound, and is defined by an intelligence quotient (IQ) score under 70. In general, around 70 percent of the autistic population is classified as mentally retarded as well.

In terms of symptoms, mentally retarded people are mainly challenged in language usage and communication. They also have difficulties in grasping abstract concepts.

Since they are less capable of understanding, comprehending, concentrating and memorizing, it is a hard job for them to consolidate their acquired knowledge.

In terms of personality, intellectually disabled people are mostly innocent and approachable. However, they are often hindered by their lack of speech and language skills.

When they cannot fully express their emotions and needs, they feel inferior and frustrated. While interacting with others, they tend to be the passive ones, which can lead to a range of behavioral problems.

The good news is, such behavioral and emotional matters can be improved through training. That said, the earlier the identification of intellectual impairment, the easier the MR children can be helped to overcome their weaknesses.

Parents may notice delayed development of language skills in an MR child who usually uses single words in conversations. Their language competency is around three years behind other children.

They also have a hard time in nonverbal communication, mainly because their eye contact is rarely stable or traceable. They seldom use body language to express their needs either.

They would stick to repetitive gestures like spinning on a certain spot and enjoy a particular lifestyle and way of object arrangements, which can otherwise bring them anxiety.

They also react to external changes in unexpected manners. For example, they are nonchalant towards parents' yelling and unresponsive to stimuli such as stinging, hotness and coldness.

Parents should take their children for an intellectual assessment as quickly as possible if they detect the above-mentioned signs.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 9

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Registered social worker for the child and adolescent psychiatric services