Less than 50 years ago, doctors would return a verdict of ‘retarded’ if a child showed slowness in development, especially if they did not respond to external stimuli. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always correct. As technology and our understanding of child development improved, it was discovered that most children who were thus labelled, were not in fact, ‘retarded’ or mentally challenged at all.
It was something else entirely.
Parents first start worrying when their darling infants and toddlers don’t look at them, turn towards them or develop as fast as the peers they meet during medical appointments. Examining an adult patient and arriving at the correct diagnosis is difficult enough when the patient cannot properly term his/her condition, but diagnosing a wriggling baby is a nightmare. This is why most doctors missed the fact that many so-called ‘retarded’ children were simply specially-abled – in other words, they faced some physical disability or handicap that made it difficult for their tiny brains to receive the necessary stimuli and thus develop accordingly. Thus, if a baby is not seeing properly, only qualified ophthalmologists will be able to tell.
Correction and Cure
Naturally, babies who received the proper diagnosis developed rapidly and normally as opposed to older children who had been misdiagnosed as ‘mentally challenged’ when they were younger. The key here is getting them the help they need. Nowadays, an optometrist is ready to design special glasses for babies if they feel it will help them see and interact with their world better. Less than 50 years ago however, it was deemed ridiculous. Many children who were deaf but could actually speak never developed language skills (thus also severely impairing social skills) because no one realized they could speak. After all, they didn’t know there was sound. The sooner they get the help they need, the sooner they can get back to developing normally. See this post to find out the cost of laser eye surgery.
What of the few who are actually mentally challenged? There is a certain percentage of the population who face developmental barriers, learning disabilities, or mental challenges. Their intellect might never improve from that of a 3-4 year old, or they could always have problems with written language. Today, there are plenty of tools to help them learn and there are techniques, strategies, toys and other things that can help them fit in. It is the responsibility of parents, doctors and teachers to guide the child towards navigating the world with all the skills they have and can develop, instead of judging them for what they lack.