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Senators Urge Move Away From ‘Mental Retardation’


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A new proposal in Congress is calling for the federal government to take yet another step away from the term “mental retardation” in favor of “intellectual disability.”

Under legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate last week, Social Security programs would no longer use “mental retardation” or variations of the term, instead classifying individuals as having “intellectual disability.”

The proposed change comes nearly two years after President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law which required all federal health, education and labor policy to utilize “intellectual disability.” The change, however, did not affect Social Security.

The push to update terminology for Social Security was introduced as part of a broader bill known as the Children’s Mental Health Accessibility Act that would increase community-based mental health services for children on Medicaid.

“This is an effort to remove outdated stigmas and empower parents to help the children they love,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who proposed the legislation along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

The federal government’s shift toward the term “intellectual disability” comes as most states have also instituted similar language changes.

In addition, physicians and mental health experts are expected to move away from the term “mental retardation” in forthcoming updates to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as well as the International Classification of Diseases.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Johannes says:

    What is the difference? I guess the term intellectual disability is more encompassing. Does intellectual disability include dyslexia, dyscalculia, word finding problems? Or is it just window dressing and in 25 years we have to change the name again?

  2. Jon K. Evans says:

    I work with the disabled as a Family Washroom Attendent for the Chicago Bears. I GENERICALLY use the term “Hard Core Disabled” when describing persons with disabilities-be it those formerly known as mentally retarded, those with missing limbs or digits, or persons unfortunate enough to end up like the late Rasul (Rocky) Clark, a high school football player, or the late actor Christopher Reeve.

  3. Theresa Rhodus says:

    I can think of 25 more important things Congress could be doing than reinventing new names for things. And 100 things they could be doing for mentally retarded children.

  4. Harrison Dixon says:

    At the end of the day after all is said and done, it is much more important that we love people and demonstrate that love in our actions, than it is to constantly pay lip service to them by calling them by different names. I wonder how many of these same folks have been voting to cut services or failed to get involved in trying to sustain services to to this population.

  5. Sheryl says:

    Glad to see this change in terminology will be used by all those government entities working with the intellectually disabled. If you were to ask persons with intellectual disabilities you would find that they support this change. The stigma associated with the misuse of the word retardation has for a long time caused heartache, humiliation, and alienation. It’s encouraging that our citizens and government are showing respect for this segment or our society that is often overlooked, ignored, or shunned.

  6. Angie says:

    Unless you have a child with a “mental retardation”, you would not understand the importance of changing the label. Should it be the concern of congress? Who knows. But for someone to criticize someone for coming up with a better sounding label should really be ashamed of themselves. Maybe you are the one the label should be used for.

  7. GARY B. RUBIN says:

    i think the word retarted needs to go for one thing. and yes should go to intellectual disabiltys or diffrence abiltys becouse theres a bunch of disabiltys out there folks lets not forget that. being a person with a intellectual or diffrence abilty we need to change with the times im from the garden state new jersey and thats the way we are going here

  8. GARY B. RUBIN says:

    also let me add this most of you ask whats the diffrents you people need a CLUE WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE

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