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A mental retardation assessment evaluates a patient to determine whether retardation is present, and to quantify its severity. This may be recommended if a child has suspected mental retardation or a syndrome associated with it, or experiences developmental delays that might be explained with a careful evaluation. It is performed by a professional with specific training in this area and a background in a field like psychiatry, genetics, or pediatrics. Several series of tests may be required for a thorough assessment.
In the course of a mental retardation assessment, the assessor can interact with the child, presenting a series of tasks and noting the response. The goal is to check for cognitive deficits that might interfere with the ability to perform tasks of daily living and critical thinking. Testing is tailored for the child’s age to ensure people are not asked to perform inappropriate tasks. A nine month old infant, for example, is likely to perform poorly on a task that requires reading.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ) testing may be considered as part of a mental retardation assessment, to determine the child’s capacity for learning and applying knowledge. In addition, interviews with parents may be requested to collect demographic information that might be beneficial. This can include reports of genetic conditions in the family or a history of using drugs during a pregnancy. The assessor may work with the child’s doctors to go over medical records and take note of specific events and concerns.
If the mental retardation assessment indicates that some developmental delays are present, the assessor can assign a score of mild, moderate, severe, or profound mental retardation based on a number of testing parameters. The score can help medical providers determine what kinds of interventions may be appropriate to help the child live as independently as possible. For example, someone with mild retardation might be able to mainstream in a school with some assistance, while profound mental retardation may require more interventions.
Children are not the only people who may undergo a mental retardation assessment. In some cases testing can be requested for adults if there are concerns a diagnosis was missed or that someone lacks the capacity to consent, participate in a legal trial, or make other decisions. Assessors meet with the client to conduct a series of tests, looking specifically to see if signs of delays emerged early in childhood. The evaluation can include an exploration of why the issue wasn’t identified earlier in life, when the patient might have been able to benefit from interventions.
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