Mental retardation is a known disability associated with limitations in cognitive skills and adaptive behaviors, which hamper learning (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2011). Students with mental retardation have a slow learning pace, low intelligence quotients (IQ’s), and may get to a point where learning stops (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2011). Apparently, the causes of mental retardation are not clear. However, some factors are associated with this disability. They include problems during prenatal developments, difficulties in child delivery, and brain injuries in childhood that can all result in mental retardation (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2011). The aim of this paper is thus to explore academic, ecological, and social strategies of a student with mental retardation.
Mental retardation disability affects individuals between their early years and adolescence (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2011). Their mental and physical development is slower than that of their peers. Consequently, it is important for a child who is mentally retarded to be enrolled into a school with special facilities, which will assist him/her learn to live a similar life to that of his/her peers. In such schools, students receive personalized attention required for normal development (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2011).
A student with mental retardation may have difficulties developing social skills and learning. Learning issues may include problems with decision-making, minimal attention spans, and unsuitable approaches to dealing with changes. Their social skills issues may include problems labeling emotions and becoming wary of new places (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2011).
Special training and education for students with mental retardation may start as early as in childhood to improve the child’s potential to the fullest (Scruggs, 2008). It includes social skills that enable the child to function as normally as possible. Behavioral strategies are essential for individuals with mental retardation (Scruggs, 2008). With the needed support available, students with this disability may achieve a quality life. Instructions and curriculums must be modified carefully to aid these students achieve their potential both academically and in other operational areas, such as independent living. Even as students with mental retardation may have adaptive behavioral limitations, these disadvantages may co-exist alongside with the advantages in other areas (Scruggs, 2008).
Instructors ought to offer direct instructions in numerous skill areas outside of the usual curriculum to address the limits of adaptive behavior and intellectual functioning experienced by persons with mental retardation (Scruggs, 2008). Students with intellectual disabilities benefit from similar strategies of teaching utilized to educate individuals who face other learning challenges. These obstacles include attention deficit, autism, and learning disabilities. An example of such approach is dividing learning activities into small steps (Scruggs, 2008). Every learning step is implemented one at a time to avoid confusing the student. The moment the student masters one-step, the following step is introduced. The learning approach of this kind is a progressive strategy, which is characterized by many learning techniques, with the only difference in the size and number of sequential steps (Scruggs, 2008).
A second approach includes the adjustment of the teaching plan. Long oral directions and theoretical lectures are ineffective training techniques for many audiences (Heinz, 2007). Most individuals are kinesthetic students, which mean that they learn by undertaking a hands-on activity. Moreover, it is different from learning it theoretically. A hands-on strategy is specifically useful for students with mental retardation (Heinz, 2007). They learn well when the information is observed and concrete. For instance, there are numerous ways to teach the concept of gravity. Teachers can teach gravity theoretically. They can educate the force of gravitational pull by describing it. Secondly, instructors can show how gravity operates by dropping something. Thirdly, students can be asked to experience gravity by undertaking an activity. In effect, this gravity experience is simpler to comprehend than a theoretical explanation (Heinz, 2007).
Moreover, individuals with mental retardation learn best in environments where there is the use of visual aids (Heinz, 2007). They may include graphs, pictures, and charts. Students are also able to understand the behaviors expected from them when these visual tools are used. For example, the use of tables for mapping the progress of the students is very effective. Maps are also effective, since they provide positive support for an appropriate on-task behavior (Heinz, 2007). One more tutoring approach is offering a direct and instant response to individuals with mental retardation. This immediate feedback helps them create relationship between their conduct and the tutor’s response. A delay in response leads to difficulties in forming connection between cause and effect. As a result, learning goals may not be achieved (Heinz, 2007).
Social skills help people to adapt well to every social situation in the school, as work, and in interpersonal relationships. There is a close link between social skills, communication, and language skills (Arif, 2011). Effectual communication incorporates an accurate utilization and interpretation of both spoken and non-spoken word. It involves the capability to comprehend non-literal or figurative speech. Excellent social skills also include behavioral management capabilities (Arif, 2011).
Students with learning challenges tend to have minimal awareness of their social skills compared to those without disabilities (Kumar et al., 2009). Besides, they usually possess inadequate skills of social problem-solving, responding correctly to spoken and non-spoken communication, as well as perceiving intentions of others. In effect, they are likely to face social problems with peers at school in addition to low peer acceptance and rejection, compared to regular students. Higher degree of peer association problems for mentally retarded students may mean that the relationship between the teacher and the student plays a significant part in supporting motivation. Consequently, there is substantial evidence that students with learning disabilities or mental retardation tend to require teacher’s support and response more than students with no disability (Kumar et al., 2009).
Students with mental retardation often need to be openly trained in behavioral management skills (Kumar et al., 2009). For example, they ought to learn to stop speaking out of turn. Besides, they need to talk at the proper volume when conversing. When given directions, they gain knowledge of following rules and social conventions. For instance, with appropriate training, they get to know that it is correct to queue to buy a ticket. This training of social skills in the mentally retarded students should occur in a social environment. For that reason, social learning usually takes place in a social learning group. These teams often involve two or more professional trainers and peer support experts. Peer support professionals are individuals with mental retardation who have understood these skills (Kumar et al., 2009).
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Ideally, students with mental retardation ought to be in environments that suit them best. They should be enrolled in standard classrooms with students of the same age and individual support as required (Heinz, 2007). Mentally retarded students may be involved in a usual classroom for part or all of the school day. Occasionally, students may as well join specialized sessions or schools based on their personal needs. Moreover, the family of a mentally retarded student may also opt to join a parents’ support group or find help in a developmental medical center at their children’s hospital. There, the parents will be able to learn various ways of handling their mentally disabled children. In general, students with mental retardation consume more time while adapting to instructions (Riva, Bulgheroni, & Pantaleoni, 2007).
Therefore, there will be a need for creativity, flexibility, and planning to institute learning into these students. Moreover, assistance of the general classroom or professional tutors will be essential. These students may have difficulties remembering the things that they have learned. Additionally, they may not remember where they have placed items necessary for schoolwork. It is significant to remove all unrequired material, which may divert the students’ attention during the course of learning (Riva et al., 2007).
Mental retardation is a condition characterized by certain limitations both in adaptive behavior and in intellectual functioning, which are displayed in social, conceptual, and practical skills. Individuals with mental retardation need special care, which means that other people should take their time to provide care to such persons. Mentally retarded students are in need of personal support in order to feel in the right place. Children with this disability find it difficult to pay attention at school. Therefore, particular care should be accorded in order able them to learn and change their lives.
Thus, to completely comprehend the disadvantages in adaptive behavior and intellectual functioning often inhibited by students with intellectual disabilities, tutors ought to offer direct teaching in several skill areas outside of the general curriculum. These aptitudes are mostly functional in nature. However, they are essential for the independence future of a student. More skill areas incorporate time concepts, money concepts, hygiene and self-care, vocational training, leisure activities, and independent living. Students with mental retardation acquire these skills more effectively during activities or in settings where they are expected to apply these aptitudes.
Finally, mentally retarded students are not different from others in their age groups in any other way other than mental development. Other individuals ought not to fear them or treat them in ways indicating that they are mentally disabled. However, they should offer support, since it can help them lead a productive and long life such, just like any other person.