Often there are individual differences from child to child, but the there are common characteristics in children with mental retardation issues.

Children with mental retardation have poor impulse control and responses are often an over-reaction to the situation. This may be confusing to them. They may need to have the situation explained to them, especially where their thinking went wrong. Over-reactions may be general thinking errors, and they need explanations in simple terms. Make sure they are looking directly at you because they can not calm down if they can not hear you. And they can not hear you if they can not see you!

They have a limited number of social and communication skills that can result in using physical acts to express anger and frustration rather than words, especially when the situation is complex. Help remove the complexities of the situation and communicate with words rather than actions.

Moral judgment requires the ability to be able to go beyond oneself and see how your behaviors will affect someone else. Children with mental retardation can not always do this without help. They need people to point this out to them. Once someone points out how their behavior affects someone else, they will understand, and they may or may not do something about their behavior. They may also need to be told exactly what to do, especially if the situation is ambiguous.

They really have a hard time understanding motives and feelings of others. They tend to see very little beyond themselves and how they are affected. They may have immature ideas about the causes of things and who is to blame for things that are their own fault. They may also assign blame for accidents, and they may not always understand the difference between accidental and on-purpose. If the situation is too complex, they do not always understand the difference between right and wrong. Simple right and wrong –itting, yelling, etc. – they do understand.

Very few kids with mental retardation will freely admit that they have mental retardation. They want to be normal and fit in. They will act as though they understand something even though they really do not because they want to fit in, and because they want approval. They are more likely to answer 'yes' than 'no' to questions. It is important to know this. You can still ask yes-no questions, but follow them up with questions that find out if the person knows what you are asking, or if they are seeking approval. Ask to explain the idea or how it works. Avoid 'what if' questions.

Kids with mental retardation may do some things better than they do other things. They may have a strength or some social capability. Or they may have a strength in a small area where overall they are limited.