Therapy for mental retardation is often designed to help a person to cope with daily life rather than fix the underlying problem. As such, it is common for this type of therapy to address social, occupational, or practical considerations. In some unique cases, therapy can improve a mentally disabled person's overall intelligence and ability to function, but this depends on the type of retardation and the stage at which the problem is caught. Due to the complexity of this disorder, therapy for mental retardation usually involves a group of strategies rather than a single method.
Some of the most important types of therapy for mental retardation teach life skills to individuals who function at a high enough level to live independently. These skills are important not only for the individual's safety, but also for his or her sense of self-worth. Occupational therapy for mental retardation helps individuals live life in a way that they believe is satisfying. In certain types of mental retardation, therapy that teaches social skills or helps promote competent human interaction is important. This is often in the same treatment plan as types of therapy that teach life skills, but social skills can sometimes be more difficult to grasp than practical concerns.
Medical therapy for mental retardation can occasionally improve or even reverse this condition if applied early enough. This is true of retardation caused by hyperthyroidism and occasionally of brain damage in very young children. It is important to understand that not all types of mental retardation can be cured and that the definition of retardation is extremely broad.
For some people, family therapy can help the family unit cope with mental retardation more effectively. This in turn can provide additional support to the individual with mental retardation. Having a strong social support system is essential to maximizing an individual's functionality in daily life. Therapy of this type not only provides mental peace to family members but also improves the mentally disabled individual's chances of success.
In severely disabled individuals, no type of therapy will lead to an independent life or improved mental function. For these people, therapy designed to promote cooperation with daily tasks can be helpful. Mentally disabled patients who must be cleaned, cared for, and manually moved can be taught to cooperate with these procedures when provided by trusted individuals. This type of therapy can reduce stress for both the disabled individual as well as any caretakers. If started during childhood, this type of therapy can also reduce the chances of injury when the individual becomes an adult.