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ike_define
ike_define asks:
Q:

How do I manage my mentally retarded son's behavior?

My son is 3 years old and was diagnosed as mentally retarded. he has started shool and is learning words and sign language. But with his lack of language he constantly screams and hits himself, I dont know how to calm him down. In public it is very hard.He always has to have a stuffed animal or a favorite object before we can go anywhere or he will get very uncomfortabe. Also he does not sleep well at night. He wakes up many times in the night and I'm not sure what to try or what to do to help him get adequate sleep . Help please!!!
In Topics: Mental retardation
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Louiseasl
Jul 6, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Hello and I hope that I can be of some assistance to you.  

First, let us look at what is "typical " three year old behavior and what is not in your description.

I will start with the need for a "stuffed animal".  Having an object of comfort is not unusual for a preschool child (and even a young elementary school child).  This object helps them to transition from place to place and is a tool to give them peace when they are in unfamiliar surroundings, in environments that are not to their liking (such as overly noisy or stimulating such as the local supermarket or mall) and also to help them settle for rest times.  

Secondly,  let us look at the issue of sleep.  Many three year-olds have difficulty sleeping through the night.  Sometimes, it is due to being awoken because of  a wet diaper or pull-up, other times they are light sleepers and are triggered by noise, etc.  If possible try and keep a detailed log as to what time he is awaking at night.  What does he seem to want.  Is he wet or dry when he awakes.  Are there noises that occur routinely at this time, such as an air conditioner kicking on or a garbage truck going by.  Is he having a nightmare?  Night terrors?  (Does he seem to be "awake" yet does not acknowledge you?)  This is an area that should be addressed with your pediatrician and possibly a specialist.  Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as purchasing and using a "white noise " machine to block out environmental noises.

Now for difficulties with communication and his self- hitting/screaming.  I applaud that the school is using a sign language and speech program with him.  Excellent.  However, he may need more or a different "twist" on how the signs are being introduced with the speech. I have worked with numerous children with Down Syndrome (DS)who have difficulties with communication.  First, teach a few signs at a time. Three to five signs should be taught until mastery (which may be just consistent acknowledgement that he understands the sign vs. his making the sign himself) Important signs for children with DS to learn first include MORE, FINISHED, HELP, PAIN , EAT(DRINK), MOM, DAD, and WANT (Signed words are in caps for this response).  There are also important transition signs and techniques that can be employed to help a child move from one activity to another or one situation to another with less tantrums. These techniques are to give a child a transition sign with a verbal cue.  One can point to an imaginary watch on your wrist to signify "TIME for...." and then advise what is coming up in a few minutes and the activity that will follow.   For example, Say "Soon it will be TIME for EATING.  Then it will be TIME for BATH."  Sign only the words in caps for simplicity.  Please keep in mind that children with special needs often need a Adaptive or Functional Sign Language which is modified for their needs when they learn to respond.  

Also, the use of a simplistic sign chart could be helpful.  Again, using the signs above and then adding to the chart.  There is no reason that a child cannot have speech, sign and a picture exchange or picture chart to use simultaneously.  Again, an approach that is simple and uses only a few words, signs and pictures should be introduced at a time.  The pictures are best if they are photos of a familiar person signing the word or of an object of what they usually want (such as a box of cereal, carton of milk, bathtub, the dog, mom, dad, etc.)

Hopefully, these suggestions will help your son.  Also, please avail yourself of area support groups for parents with special needs children.  I have added some resource websites below.  

Good luck and please remember to consult with the professionals in your area, too.

Louise Sattler, NCSP
Owner of SIGNING FAMILIES
http://www.SigningFamilies.com   (We have signs posted on this site to help you)

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Additional Answers (3)

Edu-Katherine
Edu-Katherine writes:
Hi ike_define,

Sorry to hear that you are going through this.  Has the doctor who diagnosed your son offered any referral to a behavioral specialist, and perhaps a support group for you to get together with other parents who are facing the same challenges?
> 60 days ago

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gurdy1
gurdy1 writes:
check out symptoms of smith magenis syndrome im just a parent of a 8 year old mentally handicaped boy but becouse he is un diognosed i look at diferent disorders all the time these kids are mentally handicaped and have a sleep disturbence for instance most have a tendancey to take lots of naps and wake up multible times and usually awake around 6 am which makes them very hard to handle i know how you feel he is very agresive and hard to manage if you need to talk email gurdy1@yahoo.com
> 60 days ago

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ilovechefwilliam
ilovechefwi... , Teacher, Caregiver writes:
You should talk to your doctor about your concerns.  Because of his age I think that it is appropriate to bring his favorite object or toy to a trip.  As long as the size is appropriate.  I would also speak with the local school about using PECS or social stories.  A schedule might also be very helpful and appropriate for him.  Good Luck!
> 60 days ago

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