Intellectual Disability (Mental Retardation) Explored in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Intellectual Disability (Mental Retardation) Explored in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

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In the 1993 film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, a young boy (Gilbert) has to care for his younger brother (Arnie) who suffers from mental retardation, while also caring for their obese mother. Arnie is very dependent on his brother who bathes him and keeps an eye on him at all times. Arnie’s symptoms are very clear throughout the film including communication, health, safety, self-care, and home living (Grohol, 2013). Taking care of a younger sibling on your own has to be hard enough without them having a mental disorder. Their mother who is obese has not left the house in years because of their father’s suicide by hanging himself. The whole town mocks their mother and it makes their life that much more difficult. Gilbert and his two sisters slave away their youth constantly cooking, cleaning, and watching over Arnie for their mother because she cannot because of her disability also. Caring for someone with a disability can be difficult but love and support is what they need the most and that is why I chose this movie and family to discuss. Although Gilbert sometimes gets distracted from watching and taking care of Arnie by things going on in his own life, he never complains about his role as a care giver for his younger brother with mental retardation.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Mental retardation was renamed Intellectual Disability in the DSM-5. This was to guide away from relying on IQ test scores for the diagnosis of mental retardation and to try and rely more on day to day tasks that one should be doing for their age and cultural lifestyle. There are four levels of mental retardation, mild, moderate, severe, and profound. (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2011). The least severe of them is the mild mental retardation. Children...

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...nal of Special Education, 9.
Matson, J. L., Minshawi, N. F., Gonzalez, M. L., & Mayville, S. V. The Relationship of Comorbid Problem Behaviors to Social Skills in Persons With Profound Mental Retardation. Sage Journals, 30, 496-506.
Ropers, H. (). Genetics of intellectual disabilities. Genetics of disease, 18, 241-250.
"Down syndrome." South African Medical Journal 101.1 (2011): 6. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Grohol, J. M. (2013, May 26). » Mental Retardation Symptoms - Psych Central. Psych Retrieved , from
Intellectual Disability. (n.d.). Retrieved January 1, 2013, from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2011). Abnormal Psychology Fifth Edition . New York: McGraw-Hill.

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