April 16, 2010, Newsletter Issue #49: Children with Mental Disabilities

Tip of the Week

Most times, a child’s mental disability is complicated by other problems, both physical and emotional. The biggest physical problems are difficulty with hearing, sight and/or speech as these further complicate the child’s attempt at communication and learning.

Prior to the ‘80s, parents, on the advice of professionals, would institutionalize a child with a mental disability. Sometime during the ‘80s (depending on location), training school-type institutions were deemed unconstitutional and children and adults were transferred to group homes. A group home has a family setting. Generally, no more than six children or adults were housed in group homes. These homes are staffed with people who are trained to take care of the various physical and emotional problems that a person with a mental disability may have.

Now, parents are encouraged to keep a child with a mental disability at home and to get the child involved in the community. Most states guarantee that a child with a mental disability gets educational and other services at the expense of the public.

A child with a mental disorder should have a comprehensive evaluation to determine what his or her strengths and needs are. These tests include general medical tests, neurological tests, psychological tests, hearing/speech/vision tests and physical therapy. The test results are discussed with the family and the school and are used to develop a treatment and education plan.

Children with mental disabilities often have the ability to learn—they tend to learn slower. It takes more repetitions of certain material for that child to grasp the concept of what is being taught. Children with mental disabilities can grow into adults that contribue to the community—they can learn skills to hold a job, manage a bank account and do their own shopping.

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