N.J. gets rid of term “mental retardation” – part of a national trend

    Many families and advocates despise it, and call it “The R-Word”. Still, the term “mentally retarded” is often attached to diagnosis, services, and legislation regarding people with cognitive impairments.

    Many families and advocates despise it, and call it “The R-Word”. Still, the term “mentally retarded” is often attached to diagnosis, services, and legislation regarding people with cognitive impairments.

    The state of New Jersey just passed legislation to replace the controversial term with “intellectual or developmental disabilities” – and a national movement is underway.

    New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed legislation this week officially eliminating the term “Mentally retarded” from laws and regulations. Delaware made the change in 2001. In Pennsylvania, most state programs and offices now use “intellectual or developmental disability”.

    Beth Myers of the Department of Public Welfare says “mental retardation” does come up occasionally because the term is still used in older federal legislation:

    Myers: Mental health and mental retardation comes from the Mental Health and mental retardation act of 1966 which outlines some of the things that we as a department are required to do, and then a lot of other times when you see the MR phrase is actually tied to a specific funding stream that is called that, but we refrain from referring to people in that fashion

    Celia Feinstein from the Center for Disabilities at Temple University says families and people affected by intellectual disabilities have long been fighting for these changes:

    Feinstein: The term mental retardation is a term that people with that disability find offensive. It’s become a word that you hear in playgrounds, it’s become a word that is hurtful

    This month, the U.S. Senate passed a similar bill and the House is scheduled to take up its version next month.

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