What Is Moderate Mental Retardation?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2018
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Moderate mental retardation is an intellectual disability that interferes with someone's intelligence and capacity for adaptive behavior at a moderate level. Individuals with this disability may be able to engage in a number of tasks independently, but typically need some assistance in the classroom and often benefit from support with tasks of daily living. This condition can vary greatly in severity between individuals. Treatment focuses on addressing the needs of the individual and providing the appropriate level of assistance.

Medically speaking, moderate mental retardation is defined by having an intelligence quotient (IQ) ranging between 50 or 55 and 70. Individuals with this condition may have difficulty learning and retaining information, and have more limited critical thinking and problem solving skills. They may also experience impairment with one or more adaptive behaviors like communication, self care, working, or completing tasks of daily living. Some people also have comorbidities that can present additional problems.

There are a number of causes for moderate mental retardation. Exposure before birth in-utero to harmful substances is a potential cause, as are random errors of embryonic development and congenital conditions. Extreme deprivation in childhood can sometimes contribute, as can severe early childhood illnesses. Moderate mental retardation onsets before age 18 and is often very apparent as children enter school and struggle to keep up with their peers, both in the classroom and in more social settings.


Depending on the case, patients with this disorder may have physical disabilities or other intellectual and cognitive disabilities that can interact with each other. Some people with cerebral palsy, for instance, also experience moderate mental retardation. They may need to use canes or wheelchairs for mobility and could also have difficulty completing intellectual and adaptive tasks. A doctor can evaluate the patient thoroughly to determine what kind of assistance might be most helpful, and in school, a special education counselor can work with the student as well as teachers and parents to develop an education plan.

Support for people with moderate mental retardation can include tutoring and special class sessions, occupational therapy, physical therapy to improve motor skills, if necessary, and the use of aides and assistants in some cases. Individuals with this condition are also typically entitled to accommodations at work and school, such as more time on tests or access to disability services counselors to obtain information about the range of services available on a college or university campus. This condition cannot be cured and will not change over time, but therapy and assistance can help patients develop more independence and self-confidence.



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