Profound mental retardation is the most serious and rare form of retardation. Only about one to two percent of mentally retarded individuals are classified as having profound mental retardation, which means the patient has an IQ score below 20 to 25. People who are profoundly retarded often cannot manage basic daily tasks on their own and may never learn to communicate effectively. These individuals usually live in highly supervised settings to help them with their daily needs and ensure they remain safe.
Patients who are diagnosed with profound retardation often have an underlying neurological disorder that is at least partially responsible for their mental conditions. Some conditions that cause mental retardation are inherited, such as fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome. Other underlying causes include prenatal illnesses. Some illnesses and problems during pregnancy can predispose a child to mental retardation, such as fetal alcohol syndrome or complications from a mother diagnosed with rubella, toxoplasmosis, high blood pressure, or glandular problems during her pregnancy.
Children with profound mental retardation often begin showing signs at birth or shortly thereafter, even though the actual level of retardation may not be properly diagnosed until the child is school age. Mentally retarded children often have trouble developing basic skills that come easier for other children, such as walking and talking. Profoundly retarded children are usually placed in special classrooms with teachers trained in helping mentally retarded children. Children who are profoundly mentally retarded can learn some basic skills, and their education often focuses on teaching them how to respond to situations that could endanger them.
People diagnosed with profound mental retardation are not able to work or care for themselves. They often have movement difficulties and must use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or walkers, to get around. These individuals can rarely communicate effectively through speech and may rely on basic sounds and gestures to communicate their needs and wants. Caregivers in group homes and other facilities often devise their own system of communicating with profoundly retarded patients.
Most people with profound mental retardation do not handle changes in routine well, which is why it is often better for them to live in group homes where their daily lives are heavily scheduled and monitored. Some people with this level of retardation require assistance with almost every daily task, including showering and taking care of basic hygiene, eating, and getting dressed. Family members who wish to keep profoundly retarded loved ones at home often require the help of a home nurse or other specialists.