Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(4):1070

See related article on mental retardation.

You have just learned that your child is retarded. You have a lot of questions. You probably are worried and afraid. How can you get the information and help you need?

First, remember that your child is the same dear person as before the diagnosis. The diagnosis didn't change your child into someone else. Your child is still someone special.

Sometimes it helps to read about a problem to understand it better. Your doctor and the other people who evaluated your child can help you find books, magazines and other information about mental retardation. Some libraries offer videotapes on this topic.

Other people who can share their ideas with you are the therapists and teachers who will be working with your child. They may also recommend reading material, videotapes and other useful information.

If you have access to a computer, you can find many organizations that offer information on the Internet. Print out the information to keep for your files. Your public library may be able to help you with this search.

Often it helps to talk with other parents whose children have a similar diagnosis. They may be able to give you ideas about how to help your child learn. If your child has some behavior problems, they may have useful hints about things that worked well for them.

You may want to join a support group of parents in your area who also have children with special needs. These groups meet regularly and can be very helpful to you, your child and your whole family. You may also want to join a state or national organization that will give you specific information about diseases or syndromes related to mental retardation.

You can also get information for your other children to read. This may help them understand their brother or sister better, which can help all of you.

Don't be afraid to ask for help or explanations. Many people, like doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, teachers and psychologists, are committed to helping children with special problems and their families.

Resources for parents of children with mental retardation

  • Exceptional Parent (a monthly magazine—annual subscription rate: $32; they also publish an annual resource guide)

    Toll-free telephone number: 1-877-372-7368.

  • The Arc

    500 East Border St., Suite 300, P.O. Box 1047,

    Arlington, TX 76010

    Toll-free telephone number: 1-800-433-5255

    Web address:

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