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Narrative: Mild intellectual disability is usually detected during school years

Parents should look out for the signs of mental retardation during the early developmental milestones and seek early intervention

Rajesh, 9, was brought to a psychiatrist on the advice of his schoolteacher, who had noted his poor learning curve in school. Rajesh’s mother had experienced difficult labor and there was a delayed cry at birth when he was delivered. He walked for the first time when he was two years old, and began speaking a few words only after he turned three. His parents were a bit worried about the delay in reaching these developmental milestones, so they took him to a local doctor who reassured them that Rajesh would be alright. He started to attend the local government school at the age of six when he attained some bowel and bladder control. His teachers noted that he was not able to pick up academic skills like his peers and kept telling his parents about this. This led to their visit to the child psychiatry section in a large government hospital. On evaluation, he was found to be suffering from a mild degree of intellectual disability with an IQ of 55. Rajesh’s parents had approached the doctors with the expectation that scanning his brain would reveal an abnormality which could then be corrected with medicines, and the boy would then be able to perform like his peers.

Psychologists at the government facility counseled the parents on the developmental nature of the problem, limitations that would arise in his learning as a result of this, and the need to engage and train him in self-help skills, household chores, and social skills, in addition to academic skills. A letter was given to the schoolteacher about his condition and the need for encouragement and support so that he could pick up as many academic skills as possible. His parents were also taught home-based training techniques such as modeling, shaping, chaining, and rewarding. They were advised to get in touch with a local NGO that works in the area of disability.

Milder forms of intellectual disability are often detected only during the school years and parents are in the dark about the nature of disability and how to manage it. Parents should look out for signs of intellectual disability that can be observed during the early developmental milestones.can help the child fare better.

This narrative has been created with the help of mental health experts by taking into consideration symptoms and accounts from a cross-section of patients. The story is not a case study of any one particular person but is meant to be representative of a person suffering from the disorder mentioned.