The original purpose of Binet’s test was to identify students who lagged behind their agemates. The test, and others based on it, is still used in an effort to diagnose the “mentally retarded.” For someone to be so diagnosed, an IQ below 70 is usually regarded as a necessary-but not sufficient-condition. That is, it is only when a low IQ is coupled with inadequate social and occupational adjustment that the label of retardation is correctly applied. Many low-IQ children appear definitely retarded in the classroom but not on the playground or in their home environments After leaving school these children are usually able to find productive employment and to function successfully and independently. They merge imperceptibly into the rest of the normal population.
Typically, distinctions are made among various degrees of mental retardation. Mild retardation, with IQs ranging from about 55 to 69, occurs in about 2 percent of the population; among such people! prospects for successful adaptation to independent adult life are reasonably good. Moderate retardation, with IQs between 40 and 54, occurs in about .1 percent of the population. Severe retardation-with IQs below 40-is much rarer, occurring in some .003 percent of the population. The severely retarded usually need institutional care throughout their lives. With appropriate training, they can be taught many self-help skills and the quality of their lives can be improved.
For most mentally retarded people! no clear physical cause can be found.This type of relatively mild retardation is often called ”familial-cultural.” Those so diagnosed are generally born to parents with low IQs and have been reared in depressed and deprived conditions. There are other cases of retardation-often very severe-that are clearly related to catastrophic biological accidents of some kind or to known genetic defects. For example, prenatal infection of the mother or a lack of adequate oxygen during birth may result in brain damage. To the infant producing severe retardation.
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