Psychological characteristics of children with mild mental retardation



The concept of primary and secondary developmental defects was introduced by L.S. Vygotsky. Primary defects arise as a result of organic damage or underdevelopment of any biological system (analyzers, higher parts of the brain, etc.) due to the influence of pathogenic factors. Secondary – have the character of mental underdevelopment and violations of social behavior, not directly arising from the primary defect, but caused by it (speech impairment in the deaf, impaired perception and spatial orientation in the blind, etc.). The less the violation is connected with the biological basis, the more successfully it lends itself to psychological and pedagogical correction. The predominant symptomatology of each age level of response does not exclude the symptoms of previous levels, but assigns them a less prominent place in the picture of dysontogenesis.

In the process of development, the hierarchy between primary and secondary, biological and socially determined disorders changes. If at the initial stages the main obstacle to training and education is an organic defect, i.e. the direction of secondary underdevelopment “from the bottom up”, then in the case of untimely started correctional and pedagogical work or its absence, the secondary phenomena of mental underdevelopment, as well as inadequate personal attitudes caused by failures in various types of activity, often begin to take a leading place in the formation of a negative attitude towards oneself , social environment and main activities. Extending to an ever wider range of psychological problems, secondary underdevelopment begins to have a negative impact on elementary mental functions, i.e. the direction of pathogenic influence begins to go “from top to bottom”.

At the personal level, compensation acts as one of the protective mechanisms, consisting in an intensive search for an acceptable replacement for real or imaginary insolvency. The most mature defense mechanism is sublimation (lat. sublime – “up”, “up”). As a result of the “launch” of this mechanism, energy is switched from unsatisfied desires (especially sexual and aggressive ones) to socially approved activity that brings satisfaction.


Psychological characteristics of children with mild mental retardation

In accordance with ICD-10, IQ indicators:

Mental norm u003d 100 – 70

Light degree = 69 – 50

Mild mental retardation is the smallest degree of mental underdevelopment, its most common form, it makes up 75-89% of the entire population of mentally retarded people. It is assumed that the vast majority of diseases are endogenous or familial in origin. In some cases, hereditary predisposition is provoked by mild exogenous hazards. Easily mentally retarded children with satisfactory attention and memory are capable of learning according to the program of a correctional school based on concrete-visual teaching methods. They learn low-skilled professional skills and, under certain conditions, work independently in conventional production. The range of intellectual disability in mildly mentally retarded subjects is in IQs of 50–69.

The structure of mental disorders of mild mental retardation consists of the features of underdevelopment of almost all mental manifestations.

Sensations and perceptions are formed slowly and with a large number of features and shortcomings.

Slowness and narrowed scope of visual perception

What normal persons perceive immediately, mentally retarded persons perceive sequentially. This makes orientation difficult. The mentally retarded do not see connections and relationships between objects (

Non-differentiation of perception is manifested in the inability to distinguish similar objects when trying to recognize them. A cat does not differ from them from a squirrel, and the compass is perceived as a clock.

Recognition of volumetric and contoured objects by palpation (touch) is worse than normal, which can cause difficulties in labor training.

The development of sound discrimination occurs slowly and with difficulty, affecting the formation of speech, orientation to sound (a fallen object, the location of a speaking person, etc.).

These features of perception are smoothed out and compensated in the process of training and education. From class to class there is an improvement, development of sensations and perceptions. Facilitates this process of performing actions with objects. The lack of diversity in activity leads to a primitivization of perception.

Thus, these changes in visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, olfactory and taste perceptions, as well as difficulties in the analysis and synthesis of what is perceived, prevent the creation of an adequate orientation in the environment and the internal environment and the establishment of the most complete connections and relationships between objects of the real world.

Attention disorders

The deterioration in the concentration of attention, which is present in mentally retarded persons, leads to a decrease in its stability. This makes it difficult to purposeful cognitive activity, being one of the main prerequisites for the emergence of difficulties in mental activity. In this regard, 50% of mentally retarded younger students either cannot use verbal instruction, or it does not affect their productivity.

A decrease in the volume of attention, a quantitative narrowing of the totality of stimuli due to a violation of the ability to retain them, is constantly found in mentally retarded children. They look and do not see, they listen and do not hear. Perceiving any object, they see in it less distinctive features than normal children. This is one of the reasons that make it difficult for them to navigate outside the home, on the street, in unfamiliar places.

In mentally retarded individuals, there is often a disturbance in the switching of attention, i.e., a disturbance in the transition from one activity (task) to another, or a violation from inhibition of previous methods of activity. Their activities often show sticking or “sliding” into an already familiar way of solving a task. They have a reduced ability to distribute attention between different activities. For example, they cannot perform two tasks at once: draw and recite a poem.

Arbitrary attention in mentally retarded persons, not purposefully. It is unstable, easily depleted, characterized by increased distractibility and requires great effort to fix.

Thinking disorders are the first sign of mental retardation.

Mentally retarded individuals think concretely, that is, they remain at the mercy of single visual images, unable to understand the general, essential hidden behind them.


The inertia of thinking, the difficulty of switching from one thought to another, that is, viscosity, a kind of reasoning, is manifested in thoroughness and excessive detail. It is characteristic of many mentally retarded individuals.

Mentally retarded persons do not doubt the correctness of their newly arisen assumptions. Rarely notice their mistakes. They do not even assume that their judgments and actions can be erroneous.

Thus, the thinking of mentally retarded children and adolescents is concrete, limited by direct experience and the need to provide for their momentary needs, inconsistent, stereotypical and uncritical. The regulatory role of thinking in behavior is insufficient.

Speech disorders in mentally retarded individuals are common (40-60%). With mild mental retardation, there is a significant delay in the development of speech. However, the degree of speech correction depends on training and education.

Thus, easily mentally retarded children acquire elementary speech skills with a delay, but most of them master the ability to use speech for everyday purposes and to carry on a conversation. However, their speech is characterized by phonetic distortions, limited vocabulary, lack of understanding of words (“nickname words”), and inaccurate knowledge of the words used. The word is not fully used as a means of communication. The active lexicon is extremely limited, overloaded with clichés. Violation of the grammatical structure is associated with the rarity of the use of adjectives, prepositions and conjunctions. Phrases are poor, monosyllabic. There are difficulties in formulating their thoughts, conveying the content of what they read or heard. In severe cases, there are signs of general speech underdevelopment. The speech of mentally retarded children lagging behind in its development cannot be either an adequate means of communication, or designation, or a full-fledged tool of thinking.

Memory disorders in mentally retarded individuals are explained by the weakness of the closing function of the cortex and, in connection with this, the small volume and slow rate of formation of new conditioned connections, as well as their fragility.

The weakening of active internal inhibition, which causes insufficient concentration of foci of excitation, leads to the fact that the reproduction of the imprinted material is also inaccurate.

Forgetfulness is a manifestation of exhaustion and inhibition of the cerebral cortex.

The slowness and fragility of the memorization process is reflected, first of all, in the fact that mentally retarded children master the program of four classes of a general education school in 7–8 years of study.

The emotions of a mentally retarded individual are often inadequate, disproportionate to the influences of the outside world in their dynamics. Some have excessive lightness and superficiality of experiencing serious life events, rapid transitions from one mood to another. Others have excessive strength and inertia of experiences that arise on an unimportant occasion.

it can be said that the emotions of mentally retarded individuals are insufficiently differentiated, inadequate. Higher feelings are formed with difficulty: gnostic, moral, aesthetic, etc.

Direct experiences of specific life circumstances predominate. The mood is usually unstable. However, the degree of emotional underdevelopment does not always correspond to the depth of the intellectual defect.

The will of mentally retarded persons is characterized by a lack of initiative, an inability to direct one’s actions, an inability to act in accordance with any distant goals. They put off the most urgent things, such as urgent repairs to their clothes.

Mentally retarded persons are characterized by lack of independence, lack of initiative, inability to control their actions, inability to overcome the slightest obstacles, to resist any temptations or influences that are combined with volitional violations of the opposite type.

The personality of a mentally retarded child is formed on the basis of his assimilation of social forms of consciousness and behavior. However, it, being formed, is not completely freed from subordination to the influence of the environment, does not acquire independence. The lack of independence of mentally retarded persons over the years, as they acquire life and work experience, becomes less pronounced.

Despite the fact that they learn the norms of behavior, their role functions in society are limited. They cover only a limited number of social functions, they are poorly oriented in a new environment, and this makes it difficult for them to adapt and makes them insecure.

Under favorable circumstances, an easily mentally retarded adolescent is able to master professions that require the ability to practice, i.e., unskilled and semi-skilled manual labor (painter, locksmith, seamstress, cardboard maker, etc.)

In some conditions (for example, in rural areas), easily mentally retarded persons can adapt without difficulty. At the same time, their emotional and social immaturity is an obstacle to fulfilling some social roles, for example, they are not able to cope with the requirements associated with marriage and raising children.

In general, the mental disorders of the streets with mild mental retardation resemble those of people with a normal level of intelligence.

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