Perhaps the most important goal of mental retardation treatment is “normalization” providing an environment, living conditions, educational, occupational, and social opportunities that are, as such as possible, close to the norms of mainstream society. Historically, children with Mental Retardation have often been abused and neglected.
The ill treatment stemmed from the pessimistic view that they were hopelessly untreatable and difficult to manage. They were warehoused in understaffed institutions where they languished with virtually nothing to do and were often over medicated to make their behavior more manageable.
Several factor turned this around in the 1970s. The civil rights movement sent the loud clear message that all forms of segregation are both unjust and harmful. Parent’s organizations became more powerful and field lawsuits on behalf of maltreated children. People became more aware of the severely negative effects of chronic institutionalization.
Finally, research showed that providing stimulating educational, vocational, and other opportunities can have a profound positive effect on the house of Mental Retardation. Even people with more severe Mental Retardation can often under the proper circumstances learn to participate in self care, food preparation, and leisure activities and can enjoy a significant improved quality of life.
Each and every person with Mental Retardation needs to be carefully evaluated so that his living situation, vocational opportunities, and leisure activities can be tailored in accordance with intellectual capacity, emotional needs, and personal preference. Many behavioral problems result from being in environment that are either too noisy, overtaxing, and overstimulating or conversely too boring, repetitive and understimulated.
One of the main objectives in treatment of Mental Retardation is to provide the child with new skills to improve his ability with others and to take more control of his life. These might include educational programs that concentrate on developing leisure skills, self help skills, communication skills and social skills.
Even under the best of circumstances, people with mental retardation can have occasional behavioral disturbances particularly when they are under stress and have to deal with overly complex problems. The first step in management is to simplify and structure their environment.
Behavior modification techniques are also very effective in controlling aggression, self injury, property destruction, and noncompliance. Desirable behavior can be promoted and suppression of negative behavior rewarded through positive reinforcement. Problematic behavior can be discouraged through negative reinforcement. Distraction and getting away from conflicts are very important ways of defusing difficult situations.