Education of Students with Mental Retardation, area in the field of special education that deals with the education of students with substantial limitations in mental functioning. Mental retardation is a developmental disability characterized by significantly below-average intellectual functioning, as well as related limitations in the ability to meet common demands of daily life. Children with mental retardation lack basic skills, known as adaptive skills, in at least two of the following areas: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, use of community resources, self-direction, health and safety, academics, leisure, and work. Mental retardation becomes apparent in children before the age of 18.
Although estimates vary, between 1 and 3 percent of persons in the United States have mental retardation. Approximately 550,000 students with mental retardation under the age of 21 receive special education services in American schools. Most educational services for children with mental retardation emphasize basic living and social skills. Levels of mental retardation vary widely, and each child has individual needs and abilities. Schools design educational programs to prepare the student to live as independently as the level of retardation will allow.