Tuesday, August 2, 2011

thinking defects of the mentally retarded...seen in the general population

Inability to entertain the possibility of the hypothetical

is one feature I repeatedly see in the developmentally delayed clients I serve.

Example: A developmentally delayed client of mine is very rigid about many things. She insists on using the bathroom first (before others) every morning and makes no exceptions, whatever the situation. I told her to imagine a situation where her sister will have to leave early for an interview one day and that her sister may need to use the bathroom first that day. My client told me, "she does not have an interview". I told her again, that her sister does not have an interview, but if she did….again my client insisted that her sister does not have an interview. This went on for a few times, before I gave up.

Concreteness of thinking

is another feature of thinking of the developmentally disabled. If I tell a proverb to a developmentally delayed client of mine, the interpretation the client makes will be concrete. For example if I ask, what does this mean:" As you sow, so you shall reap". The answer is if you sow wheat, you will get wheat.

They lack the ability to abstract meaning from the proverb or to abstract the essence of what one is trying to convey. Children develop abstract thinking as they grow and mature. But those with developmental delay i.e. mental retardation do not develop abstract thinking or do so at a much slower pace

Inability to generalize from an example or from one situation to another situation

is also a part of the thinking of the developmentally delayed. Therefore when I talk to my developmentally delayed clients I do not expect them to understand and generalize the learning to other situations when I give one example ; instead I explain the same thing all over again, if I tell them something slightly different.

Inability to put oneself in another’s shoes:

and feel how the other person feels, is another feature lacking in the developmentally delayed. When some of my developmentally delayed clients have been verbally abusive to another person, I have asked them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and tell me how they would feel if they were abused in a similar way. Many of them, said, the other person should not have done that or the other person did deserve the abuse. In spite of several repetitions, they could not put themselves in the other person’s shoes.



There are other features of the thinking of developmentally delayed but I am not going into those now. I am concerned with only these aspects as I see these aspects of thinking in so called ‘normal’ people too. These aspects or defects in thinking cause a lot of problems both to the thinker and the people around him/her.


Inability to entertain the possibility of the hypothetical:

I am myself unable to do this especially to think of ‘worst case scenario’! The anxiety level shoots up; my mind simply refuses to even consider the possibility of things going wrong, even hypothetically….. This leads to being ill-prepared for disasters and this in turn leads to severe trauma when the unexpected happens. This is probably a kind of defence mechanism, which unfortunately works against the person.

Concreteness of thinking:

Concrete interpretation of works such as the Bible, Koran, the Mythological and fairy stories by the common people and worse….by people with power and authority over others has lead to immense tragedies in the world. The literariness of thinking is seen in the judgements dealt out in Saudi Arabia by their great courts…An eye for an eye; a life for a life……need I say more about the concreteness of thinking in people who wield power???

Should I label the judges as retarded i.e. the judges in countries where the motive of the crime is not considered ;where the letter of the law is more important than carrying out eh spirit of the law. If teh highest law makers in these countries are 'retarded', then what hope is there for the poor people of these countries? They not only have justice without mercy but justice without brains.....what a terrifying horror!!!


Inability to generalize from an example or from one to another situation: That is to extrapolate or an inability to see parallels in two similar situations.

People never seem to learn from others mistakes; when they see a person commit a mistake and get into trouble…..they do not tell themselves…"I should not do that or I will face the same problem" Instead they have this blind belief about their invincibility, "That will not happen to me".


Inability to put oneself in another’s shoes:

When I see the frequent and callous behaviour of people towards others (frequent in India…rare in Canada…touch wood!)

I am always struck by the thought, Why cant they put themselves in that person’s shoes and think how bad the other person will feel. But the people who ill treat others do not seem to ever put themselves in others shoes.

The government bureaucrat who is nasty to people, the peons at their doors who gives old people the run-around; the wife beating men; the child beating parents; the kidnappers, robbers, cheaters, rapists, con-men, the mne who assault women, the people who mock, insult and tease the handicapped, the mentally ill, the children who tease the animals…………why cannot they put themselves in the victim’s place for one minue and try to fell what the victim feels???

I am surprised more people are not declared as retarded, judging by their retarded behaviours. Our beloved Karnataka from today ex-chief minister Yedeyuruppa for example!

Copying some aspects instead of the entire procedure and expecting similar results

Or they copy only superficially from the example and expect the same results! Buying the same figure hugging clothes of a beautiful lady is easy to copy…however, following her routine of jogging daily is hard!



I also want to add that, with several repetitions and intensive training, the developmentally delayed can be trained to some extent in abstract thinking, etc. The milder ones do grasp to some extent about abstract thinking.







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