Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One more on language

The rationale I have had from The New York Times is that they commonly use the word "retarded" because mental retardation is still a diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) diagnostic manual (DSM). In fact, I've done a search and realized that describing someone as "severely retarded" is common practice at the newspaper. Here's another recent example:

Thanks to another blogger I learned that the APA has proposed a name change to the current diagnosis. They plan to change the name from mental retardation to intellectual development disorder in the updated DSM in 2013. I have sent this to the the public editor at The New York Times.

If you click on Rationale, it explains that the name is being changed because the term mental retardation is no longer used internationally, or in U.S. federal legislation.

1. Name change. The term mental retardation was used in DSM-IV and in earlier DSM definitions. Mental Retardation is no longer used internationally or in U.S. federal legislation, so a name change is required in DSM-5. The term Intellectual Disability (ID) is widely used. This term is used by the AAIDD and criteria have been developed to define ID as a functional disorder, explicitly in keeping with the WHO International Classification of Functioning (ICF).

Which leads me to question why an authoritative paper like The New York Times would drag its feet?


I no longer use the word because what benefits it has are negated by the hurt it causes. Simple as that. And the NYT, the medical profession and all should do the same. The word is often used because it is a quick concise way of describing someone. A lot of the other descriptions leave doubt and are not understood. "Globally challenged", "intellectually disabled", "congitively delayed", will get a "huh" from a lot of people. The other word leaves no doubt. That someone has CP or learning disabilities or a whole host of any other issues still does not address the issue that the person has very low functioning executive decision skills.

Also many loved ones of those in this situation use the word freely. You'll see this in blogs and they will often resort to it in frustration when trying to get services.

Also, the campaign has not been broad reaching when it comes to the general population. I hear the word used casually all of the time and not regarding those who fit the label medically. When one is in a world where an issue is important, it is easy to feel that it is more wide sweeping than it is. Unlike racial epithets that even the thickest headed louts have now understood that they cannot use those words unless they are those once so described, this word has not yet penetrated to those who most commonly use it in a way that is offensive.

A friend of mine whose daughter falls under the word description, told me that the young girl will probably not know what the word means for a longer time, but not because it isn't being bandied around. She will sadly have to be told, for her own protection. It's going to take more time and effort.

Hopefully the news media take more note.

Also, hopefully the story that used this word gets the outrage it should.