What Is Mild Mental Retardation?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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Mental retardation is a disorder in which a person’s intellectual development and function are below average; mild mental retardation means the effects of this disorder are less severe than the average case. For example, a person who is mildly mentally retarded may have the same symptoms as someone who is diagnosed as mentally retarded, but his symptoms may be less noticeable or affect his life in less obvious ways. He might also function on a higher level than someone who is moderately or severely mentally retarded.

An individual who is diagnosed with mild mental retardation has below average intellectual ability and function. Typically, however, his intellectual function is still better than that of a person who is moderately or severely retarded. In most cases, people who are diagnosed with the mild form of retardation are able to handle self-care tasks and become self-sufficient as adults. While their academic skills can be impaired, those who are mentally retarded are usually able to develop up to sixth-grade-level academic skills.


It may be easiest to understand the differences between mild, moderate, and severe retardation by considering intelligence quotients (IQs) of each. A severely mentally retarded individual might have an IQ that is between 20 and 35. If someone is moderately retarded, he might have an IQ that ranges from about 36 to 51. A person who is only mildly mentally retarded, however, is likely to have a higher IQ — in many cases, a person who meets this description has an IQ of about 52 to 69.

The symptoms of mild mental retardation normally include learning difficulties. For example, a person with this diagnosis could have a harder time acquiring academic skills, or he might learn at a significantly slower rate. Typically, a person who fits in this category is able to successfully complete academic levels up to grade six, though this may take many years to accomplish.

In comparison to a person who is moderately or severely retarded, a person with mild mental retardation usually has a much easier time communicating and developing social skills. He may experience impaired development of motor skills, but often this symptom is slight. In many cases, the symptoms of mild retardation are subtle enough to go undetected for many years.

Fortunately, being mildly mentally retarded doesn’t mean a person can't live a satisfying, productive life. With help, a person who fits this description can usually develop the skills he needs to live independently as an adult. This includes having a job and his own residence.


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Post 3

The brain is pretty much still a mystery, so I think to some extent it's difficult to measure this kind of thing.

I mean, how do you tell if a person has mild mental retardation if they don't know how to read? They could be very bright and just not know how to read questions. Or maybe they are good at some things and not others.

Post 2

@MrsPramm - Personally, I think it depends on the child. I think it would be a relief to some people to be able to just be in a classroom without huge amounts of pressure to keep up with the people around you. Also, as well intentioned as the teachers and other school staff may be, it's very difficult to keep special needs kids from being bullied when they are in a mainstream school.

I don't think they should be barred from doing anything they want to do. But I also think we shouldn't take it for granted that what they want is to go to school with all their peers.

Post 1

It's an interesting question as to whether or not children who fall under this definition should be "mainstreamed" or if they should attend a school for "people like them."

I'm temping at a school where the children with learning disabilities and special needs are mainstreamed and work with teacher aides, along with a couple of group classes a day. I have to say, with the help of the teacher aides it works quite well. I think it's important for them to be in a normal environment, rather than shut away and for other children to realize that differences aren't that big of a deal.

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