Development of Children with Mental Retardation

The development of children with mental retardation can sometimes look different than their typically developing peer. It is important to look at the whole child, their physical, language, cognitive, and psychosocial development. Once a child is identified, there are professional and parental interventions that can be put in place to help the child reach their full potential.


Physical Development

  • Children develop at a rapid rate, while both as a fetus and as a newborn.
  • Physical development encompasses renal, endocrine, skeletal, gastrointestinal, reproductive, muscular, and neurological systems
  • At age 2, a child’s brain is 90% the size of an adults

Signs of Abnormal Physical Development

  • If a child’s head is abnormally large or small
  • Lack or absence of some reflexes
  • Abnormal weight or height
  • Inability/delay to perform typical motor developmental milestones

Language Development

  • Birth: Crying and sucking noises
  • 1-2 months: Cooing, rhythmic crying
  • 3-6 months: Babbling
  • 9-14 months: Speaking first words
  • 18-24 months: Speaking first sentences
  • 3-4 years: Using all basic syntactical structures
  • 4-8 years: Articulating correctly all speech sounds in context

 Signs of Abnormal Language Development

While keeping in mind the above development timeline, it is important to consider the way your child speaks.  Consider the number of words in their vocabulary, how they  pronounces the words, and the way they create sentences

Cognitive Development

  • 2-4 months: Inspects own hands, begins to play with rattle
  • 6-10 months: Plays peek-a-boo, slides toy on surface
  • 15-18 months: Brings object from other room on request
  • 22-24 months: Identifies 6 body parts, matches sounds to animals
  • 30-36 months: Plays house, completes 3-4 piece puzzle, understands all common verbs

Signs of Abnormal Cognitive Development

If a child appear uninterested in manipulation, has delays in other areas, or has issues with sensory environment, cognitive development could be delayed.

Psychosocial Development

  • Smiling starting at 4 to 5 months spontaneously, 6 to 10 months into a mirror
  • 3-6 months follows moving people; 7 to 10 months discriminates stranger; 11 to 24 months waves good-bye
  • 8 to 10 months holds own bottle

Signs of Abnormal Psychosocial Development

  • Extreme temper tantrums that do not seem to be linked to triggers
  • Extreme shyness or withdrawal
  • Lack of fear in high danger situations can be signs of abnormal psychosocial development

Now what?…

These measures of development may happen slightly before or after the suggested time frame as each child develops at there own rate.  If you have a concern for your child, talk to your child’s doctor about them.

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