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Mentally Challenged Children

Yes, That Child is “Special”

“But why only my child?” is the first question they all come and ask. Ms. Baptista, the founder of ‘Centre for handicapped and special children’ in my locality, said smiling. I stood numb, unable to move or speak after each story she was narrating.

For those parents with mentally retarded child, the journey of misery and helplessness begins the very moment the baby is born. Accepting the crude reality that “this baby will not grow or behave like other normal children,” is a real challenge.

  

Mental disorders among children are described as serious deviations from expected cognitive, social, and emotional development. As per the recent report presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 13 to 20 percent of children living in the US suffer from some mental disorder in a given year. In the year 2010, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children aged 12 to 17 years suffering some kind of mental disorder.

Children with mental disorder face some serious difficulties at home and in school; they are not readily accepted by the siblings or peers. In addition, these children are at risk of developing certain chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy. For the family, raising a child who is mentally challenged is often a struggle due to denial to accept, self-blame, social stigma, and feeling of helplessness. It appears perfectly normal to suffer through problems mentioned above in the initial stage. However, the parents eventually need to accept the fact that their child cannot be fully cured.

These children are often considered uneducable and therefore suffer in neglect and social deprivation. However, being mentally challenged does not mean the child can’t be educated. With special education and training, most of these children become capable and mature enough to maintain a socially active life.

There are no specific drugs available for improvement of cognitive impairment in the developing child. The medications are prescribed only to target the specific co-morbid psychiatric disease or behavioral disturbances. Furthermore, compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to adverse effects of psychotropic medications such as sedation and weight gain.

Clinical evidence suggests that Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM), such as yoga and meditation show improvement in the IQ and social adaptation parameters. Physical activities and yoga also shows reduction in anxiety and depression and a better mental function in these children.

In addition, ‘group therapy’ offered by centers or schools for special children, has a powerful effect on promoting self-confidence and improvements in mental health. Thus, it serves as an important therapeutic tool.

Parents of young children with mental disabilities are drawn to CAM interventions as it decreases use of antipsychotic medications and allows parents to participate in their child's care. The CAM therapies thus offer an additional avenue in the management of children with mental challenges.

 

References

  1. Mental Health Surveillance Among Children — United States, 2005–2011. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6202a1.htm   last accessed july 19, 2013
  2. Uma K, Nagendra HR. The integrated approach of yoga: a therapeutic tool for mentally retarded children: a one-year controlled study. J MentDefic Res. 1989; 33(Pt 5):415-421.
  3. Ray US, Mukhopadhyaya S. Effect of yogic exercises on physical and mental health of young fellowship course trainees. Indian J PhysiolPharmacol. 2001; 45(1):37-53.
  4. A Resource Guide For Teachers Of Educable Mentally Retarded Children In Minnesota Public Schools Elementary And Secondary Schools. State Of Minnesota. Department Of Education. http://mn.gov/mnddc/past/pdf/60s/66/66-ARG-MDE.pdf last accessed july 19, 2013
  5. Mental Retardation Medication. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1180709-medication  last accessed july 19, 2013
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