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New Intellectual Disabilities Topic Center

Kathryn Patricelli, MA was an editor with from 2004-2015. She received her Master's Degree in Counseling and Psychological Services, and holds a Bachelor’s ...Read More

Over the past decade, it has become widely accepted that the diagnostic label “mental retardation” has come to carry and convey a negative social stigma. As a consequence of this realization, steps are underway to replace the label “mental retardation” with an alternative, more neutral and less stigmatizing label which nevertheless preserves clinicians’ ability to communicate about the diagnosis. In 2002 the Surgeon General’s Office issued the following statement, “The Office of the Surgeon General is aware that there is a controversy around the use of the term “mental retardation” and that advocacy groups and professional associations are currently discussing various alternatives such as “cognitive developmental disabilities” and “intellectual disabilities.” Until a consensus is reached, and with the goal of drawing attention to the great health disparities faced by people with what has been traditionally known as mental retardation in mind, the term “mental retardation” will be used in official media information on the Surgeon General’s initiative.”

In October 2010 President Barrack Obama signed into law a bill known as Rosa’s Law that requires the terms “mental retardation” and” mentally retarded” to be stripped from federal health, education, and labor policy and replaced with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability.” Meanwhile, progress has continued on the much anticipated release of a new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Although it may be several years before the new DSM-5 is released, it is expected that this new DSM will replace the term “mental retardation” with the term “intellectual developmental disorder.” However, professional organizations such as the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD at and advocacy groups such as The Arc have applied the term “intellectual disability” for many years now.

In light of the scientific, legal, and social reasons cited above, has adopted the use of the term “intellectual disability” in place of the terms “mental retardation” and “intellectual developmental disorder.”

We have replaced the previous mental retardation center with a new intellectual disabilities one. This center consists of 58 pages of material in 8 chapters including:

Introduction to Intellectual Disabilities
The Many Causes of Intellectual Disabilities
The Diagnosis of Intellectual Disabilities
Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Intellectual Disabilities
Intellectual Disabilities and Supportive Rehabilitation
Additional Support Services for People with Intellectual Disabilities and Their Families
Intellectual Disabilities Summary and Conclusion
Intellectual Disabilites Resources and Links

We hope you will find this revised topic center educational and helpful in your daily lives.

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