By most definitions mental retardation is more accurately considered a disability rather than a disease. MR can be distinguished in many ways from mental illness, such as schizophrenia or depression. Currently, there is no “cure” for an established disability, though with appropriate support and teaching, most individuals can learn to do many things.
There are thousands of agencies in the United States that provide assistance for people with developmental disabilities. They include state-run, for-profit, and non-profit, privately run agencies. Within one agency there could be departments that include fully staffed residential homes, day rehabilitation programs that approximate schools, workshops wherein people with disabilities can obtain jobs, programs that assist people with developmental disabilities in obtaining jobs in the community, programs that provide support for people with developmental disabilities who have their own apartments, programs that assist them with raising their children, and many more. The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University works to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities. There are also many agencies and programs for parents of children with developmental disabilities.
Beyond that there are specific programs that people with developmental disabilities can take part in wherein they learn basic life skills. These “goals” may take a much longer amount of time for them to accomplish, but the ultimate goal is independence. This may be anything from independence in tooth brushing to an independent residence. People with developmental disabilities learn throughout their lives and can obtain many new skills even late in life with the help of their families, caregivers, clinicians and the people who coordinate the efforts of all of these people.
Although there is no specific medication for mental retardation, many people with developmental disabilities have further medical complications and may take several medications. For example autisic children with developmental delay may utilize anti-psychotics or mood stabilizers to help with behavior. Use of psychotropic medications such as benzodiazepines in people with mental retardation requires monitoring and vigilance as side effects occur commonly and are often misdiagnosed as behavioural and psychiatric problems.
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