Mental retardation is generally defined as an impairment in the cognitive, or thinking-based, functioning — and resulting behaviors — of an individual. The impairment may range from mild to profound, which is the most severe cognitive impairment. In many regions, diagnosing mental retardation is achieved through the use of intelligence quotient (IQ) tests or similar measurements, and many activities are geared toward helping improve the lives of diagnosed individuals. Mental retardation activities can be divided by the specific focal areas that they address: physical fitness, learning, and occupational skill-building. As a result, particular mental retardation activities can include the following: aerobic and weight exercises, memory and problem-solving exercises, and skill-building tasks.
Due to cognitive impairments, mentally retarded individuals frequently experience learning difficulties, so learning-based mental retardation activities are thus prevalent. In the classroom, tasks that enhance memory and that help build problem-solving skills are invaluable for students with mental retardation, for example. More specific activities may teach concepts that the individual can apply to everyday life, such as working with money and clocks to better understand finances and time. Activities designed to bolster reading or other skill-based tasks are often focused on breaking the task down into smaller and easier-to-understand components. In addition, gently encouraging right answers and behaviors through verbal prompting, routine establishment lists, or reward systems is another common component of learning-based mental retardation activities.
The adaptive behavior that results from cognitive choices can suffer greatly in mentally retarded individuals. As such, occupational therapy mental retardation activities that build important life skills are of further benefit. Cognitively impaired individuals may be delayed in the complex reasoning skills that are often necessary to make important decisions and establish independence. Depending on the degree of retardation, the ability to perform everyday tasks and to interact with others in a socially acceptable manner may also be hindered. Therefore, occupational activities may range from teaching individuals how to cook and bathe to helping individuals better function in a workplace setting through simulating and play-acting real-world scenarios.
Since individuals with mental retardation tend to have a greater number of health problems than the average population, physical exercise is an important but sometimes overlooked component of mental retardation activities. Breathing and heart problems are two of the most prominent types of potential health ailments, so low-impact aerobic activity that raises the heart rate can be particularly beneficial. Examples include jogging, bicycling, or even brisk walking. A reasonable weight-lifting program can further help individuals with mental retardation improve bone and muscle strength, as weakness in these areas is somewhat commonplace as well. Any type of exercise should be precluded and followed up by stretching to prevent injury, and any exercise program should be discussed with a physician, especially for those who may have adverse health issues.