Fact : About 3% of America’s population suffers from mental retardation. This figure roughly amounts to 6.5 million people.
Myth : Every person with an intellectual disability or mental retardation suffers in the same way.
Fact : Degree of the condition amongst children or adults differs with every case. This makes every case different.
Myth : Mental retardation stems from a person’s imagination.
Fact : This condition is not an imaginary one. It is a brain disorder and not a figment of someone’s imagination. These mental illnesses are for real and not invented by someone.
Myth : Mentally retarded persons are violent and dangerous.
Fact : A mentally retarded person is not always dangerous and violent. As their emotional quotient is low and learning capability is less than normal, they react to situations in an abnormal way. This is what makes them seem violent. However, if they are dealt with care and love, they can very well understand the situation in a way that we do.
Myth : Every mental illness eventually leads to mental retardation.
Fact : Mental retardation is not always mental illness. Mental retardation means a person develops an intellectual capacity below the average level. Persons suffering from such a condition require constant care, intervention, and custom-made system of education. On the other hand, there are a range of mental illnesses that can develop over time, after a person has led a normal life.
Myth : Mental retardation is contagious.
Fact : No, it is a condition that causes damage to the neurological system. It is not a contagious disease. One does not contract mental retardation just by touching someone suffering from it.
Myth : Mental asylum is the only proper place of stay for mentally retarded people. Fact : The degree of mental retardation varies from person to person. It has been found that those suffering from severe mental retardation can be independent with proper training and guidance, provided by asylums. Whereas, a mild case can be treated at home, with some help. Differently challenged people need extra love, care, and attention. Keeping them away from their families, worsens their situation and can make them adamant towards learning life skills. Thus, a mental asylum is last resort for such cases.
Myth : Vocational training for people suffering from this condition is a waste of time.
Fact : It’s not true. Mentally retarded persons have a slower learning rate. However, they do have the ability to learn. Providing a mentally retarded person with vocational training does help them in enhancing their motor skills, thinking ability, and cognitive skills, thus, helping them in leading a better life.
Myth : Mental retardation is always hereditary.
Fact : Mental retardation is rarely hereditary or passed on from parents. German measles during pregnancy, meningitis, toxoplasmosis, Rh factor, and chromosomal abnormalities are some of the reasons for mental retardation caused during early childhood. In some cases, it can be prevented, if a pregnant woman takes good care.
Myth : Mentally retarded children never learn anything, and they remain dependent on others around them for the rest of their lives.
Fact : These children are perfectly capable of learning things to make themselves independent. However, they take their time adapt to new things and learn new skills, due to their low IQ. One needs to put in a little more effort to make these children learn and understand.
Only a doctor can diagnose mental retardation, by analyzing its symptoms. It is due to our disability to see beyond the obvious, that we live under such myths about mental retardation. These facts will hopefully help you get a new perspective about such individuals. Selective ostracism of such individuals by blindly following myths will leave all of us in great trouble. The least we can do for these individuals is accept them as our own and as a part of the society we live in.