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School Issues for People with Mental Retardation

separator Just about all children with mental retardation will need extra, individualized help in school. In the U.S., the states are responsible for making sure that these needs are met.

For children up to age three, early intervention programs work with parents and children to determine what services a child will need. Costs for these services are often based on a family’s income level. In some cases, these services are free.

When a child reaches school, the school system supplies the services for children with mental retardation. Staff at the school work with the child’s parents to develop what’s called an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP provides details about a child’s unique needs and the services designed to meet those needs. It also helps parents and other family members to understand how they can help their young family member with mental retardation. This is all done at no cost to parents.

Typical issues that the IEP addresses include

  • Learning to dress, bathe and go to the bathroom
  • Learning about health and safety
  • Communicating with other people
  • Learning social skills such as how to get along with a group of children, how to play games with other kids and how to have a conversation
  • Learning basics such as reading, writing and math
  • Learning job skills (as children get older)

Children with mental retardation can do extremely well in school with appropriate classroom support. They can learn the skills they need to live, work and play in their neighborhoods and communities at large.

H. Kaplan, B. Sadock, J. Grebb, Synopsis of Psychiatry, Williams and Wilkins, 1994; National Institute of Mental Health; National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities; U.S. Department of Education.
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