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Difference between Autism and Mental Retardation

Difference between Autism and Mental Retardation

There are many misconceptions about autism and mental retardation. Some people think that they are the same thing, while others believe that autism is a more severe form of mental retardation. However, there is a big distinction between the two conditions. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between autism and mental retardation.

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the term used to describe a range of conditions that share these features.

  • Autism occurs in all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups, but is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls. Symptoms usually first appear when a child is between two and three years old.
  • Autism is considered a “spectrum” disorder because there is a wide range of symptoms and severity. Some individuals with ASD are nonverbal while others speak fluently; some have only mild challenges while others require significant support, and some people with ASD live independently while others require lifelong care.
  • There is currently no known cure for ASD, but early intervention can improve long-term outcomes. There is no single cause for ASD, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Autism Awareness Month is celebrated every April to help promote understanding and acceptance of individuals with ASD.

What is Mental Retardation?

Mental retardation is a developmental disability that first appears in children under the age of 18. It is characterized by an impaired ability to think and learn. Mental retardation can be mild, moderate, or severe. People with mild mental retardation can usually live independently and hold down a job. However, people with moderate or severe mental retardation often require some level of support or supervision. Mental retardation can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic abnormalities, birth defects, and brain injuries. There is no cure for mental retardation, but early intervention and special education programs can help people with the condition lead productive lives.

Difference between Autism and Mental Retardation

Autism and Mental Retardation are both neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause cognitive impairments and social deficits. However, Autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication, while Mental Retardation is characterized by deficits in intellectual functioning.

  • Autism is also often associated with repetitive behaviors or interests, while Mental Retardation is not. Autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, while Mental Retardation is usually not diagnosed until after 4 years of age.
  • Autism occurs more frequently in males than females, while Mental Retardation occurs more frequently in females than males. Autism affects 1 in 150 individuals, while Mental Retardation affects 1 in 100 individuals.
  • There is no known cure for Autism, but there are treatments that can improve symptoms. There is no known cure for Mental Retardation, but early intervention can help to improve outcomes.

Autism and Mental Retardation are both serious disorders that can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. However, there are important differences between the two disorders that should be taken into account when making a diagnosis.


Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mental Retardation are both neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause serious impairments in social, communication, and cognitive skills. However, the two disorders differ in a few key ways. For example, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder typically have normal intelligence levels, while those with Mental Retardation often have an intellectual disability.

Additionally, Autism Spectrum Disorder is more common than Mental Retardation- affecting 1 in 68 children compared to 1 in 10,000 adults. Finally, the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to be present from early childhood, while Mental Retardation may not become evident until later in life. Despite these differences, it is important to remember that all individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders should be given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.

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