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Mental Retardation: Causes and Prevention (page 4)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Overcoming Challenges

Although some conditions or causes of mental retardation cannot be prevented. at least at the present time, the impact of the condition can be reduced substantially. For example, we have seen that PKU is a genetic reason for mental retardation but that it takes factors in the individual's environment for damage to be devastating. Infant screening can detect the problem. Here's how it works: In a procedure developed by Robert Guthrie in 1957, a few drops of the newborn's blood are taken from the heel to determine whether the infant has the inherited genetic disorder that prevents metabolizing phenylalanine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in milk. This test, which costs 3 cents, makes it possible to change any affected baby's diet before the disastrous effects of PKU can begin to mount. Guthrie developed the test because his son and his niece had PKU, and he wanted to prevent the condition from affecting others. In the past, PKU was responsible for 1 percent of all severe cases of mental retardation, nearly all of which are now identified and the severity of the problem substantially reduced (Schettler et al., 2000).

Prevention of Mental Retardation

For Pregnant Women For Children For Society
Obtain early prenatal medical care. Guarantee universal infant screening. Eliminate the risks of child poverty.
Seek genetic counseling. Ensure proper nutrition. Make early intervention programs universally available.
Maintain good health. Place household chemicals out of reach. Provide parent education and support.
Avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Use automobile seatbelts, safety seats, and cycle helmets. Protect children from abuse and neglect.
Obtain good nutrition. Provide immunizations. Remove environmental toxins.
Prevent premature births. Prevent or treat infections. Provide family planning services.
Take precautions against injuries and accidents. Have quick and easy access to health care. Provide public education about prevention techniques.
Prevent or immediately treat infections. Prevent lead poisoning. Have universal access to health care.
Avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Guarantee proper medical care for all children. Vaccinate all children.
  Provide early intervention programs.  
  Eliminate child abuse and neglect.  

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