Intellectual disability (Mental retardation): Myths and Facts

Intellectual disability (Mental retardation): Myths and Facts

Myth: Intellectual disability is a hereditary problem.

Fact: Intellectual disability is only sometimes inherited. Most often, it is caused by external influences, some of which can be prevented.

Myth: Intellectual disability is contagious.

Fact: This is entirely false, as intellectual disability does not spread by any type of contact.

Myth: Children with intellectual disability should not be made to cry when being disciplined.

Fact: Like all children, children with intellectual disability also need to be taught good behavior. However, it is important to take their limitations into consideration while disciplining them.

Myth: Marriage can cure intellectual disability.

Fact: This is entirely false. Marriage to a person with intellectual disability must take place with the full consent of the partner, who should be informed about the medical condition of the person.

Myth: Medicines and vitamins can cure intellectual disability.

Fact: When intellectual disability is caused by a treatable condition, appropriate treatment of that condition can cure it. There are however, no tonics that can stimulate a damaged brain.

Myth: Adults with intellectual disability can pose sexual danger to others because they have poor sexual control.

Fact: Adults with intellectual disability tend to be sexually inhibited.

Myth: Bad deeds/karma of parents from a previous life can cause intellectual disability.

Fact: This is entirely false. Beliefs like these only add to the already increased burden on the parents. Intellectual disability is a medical condition, and parents and caregivers need support from the community. People with intellectual disability perform very well with sufficient support and encouragement from their family and the community.

Myth: Faith healers can cure intellectual disability.

Fact: This is completely false. Faith healers mislead parents into believing that they can cure intellectual disability. There is no proof or valid research-based evidence that supports this claim.

This list has been compiled after referring to a document created for the World Health Organization (WHO) on the subject of mental retardation. The original document has been authored by Dr Satish Girimaji, NIMHANS, Bangalore, Dr Sultana S Zaman from Bangladesh Protobondi Foundation, P M Wijetunga from Susita Suwasetha Parents Asscociation Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka and Dr Udom Pejarasangharn, Rajanukal Hospital, Bangkok 

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