Please forward this error screen to 209. The first diagnostic category in DSM-IV is mental retardation, which embraces those individuals at the lower training of children with mental retardation of the intelligence spectrum.
Intelligence is defined by psychologists as the ability to solve problems, adapt creatively to changing circumstances, and generally manage one’s affairs successfully and functionally. On the other hand, a person scoring barely above this cutoff is considered to be not retarded. The need for a sharply defined cutoff is driven primarily by bureaucratic concerns. The Social Security Administration, for instance, considers mental retardation a disability, and there is an obvious need for clear answers when people apply for disability benefits. In addition, the federal, state, and many local authorities provide funding for services to people in this category, and there is a need for clear answers as to who qualifies and who does not. What’s not generally appreciated, however, is that about fifty percent of individuals who carry this diagnosis have no detectable physical problem or anomaly.
This is a direct result of the arbitrariness of the cutoff point. By diagnosing mental retardation purely on the basis of IQ and functional limitations, we are lumping together two extremely different groups of people: people with clear neurological deficits and people who simply aren’t very bright. The former have something wrong with their brains, the latter do not. Their brains are fine, they are just not as efficient as those of brighter people, in just the same way, for instance, that one person’s lungs, heart, muscles, etc.