1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Learn about Mental Retardation


Updated April 09, 2014

Definition: Mental Retardation falls under one category of disability in the IDEA. The IDEA specifies mental retardation as one of the thirteen disability categories of eligibility for special education services under 34 CFR 300.8(c)(6). Although many find the term mental retardation offensive, it remains in the language of IDEA. Generally in schools, the mental retardation is avoided in favor of person first language. Some states have chosen to use less offensive terms such as mental disability or developmental disability in lieu of mental retardation.

Mental retardation is described as "significantly sub-average intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child's educational performance." The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,formerly called the American Association of Mental Retardation, established criteria for diagnosis of mental retardation:

Also Known As: mild mental disability, functional mental disability, intellectual disability, low-incidence disability, developmental disability
The term mental retardation is considered a negative term by many disability advocates. Many prefer to use the term mental disability, intellectual disability, cognitive disability, or developmental disability rather than referring to mental retardation.

Back to Special Education and Learning Disability Terms

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.