Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is This Offensive? Weigh in!

I think most of us in the special needs community will agree that the words we use are very important. There have been epic take downs of celebrity tweeters who misuse words that we have come to know as a diagnosis for our children, ourselves or someone we care about.  We advocate about being sensitive to others by choosing to use our words carefully and without malice.  So, we all know that the use of the R word is considered offensive, but what about the terms we used to use before the R word came into standard diagnostic use?

Do you know what those words are? I didn't, until I read something about it on Homestyle Mama (with a side of autism) page .  That was several months ago, but it has stayed with me, as I have tried to evaluate what the information meant to me and what, if anything, I wanted to do about it.

Here is some snippets from the this page that I have copied and pasted:

"Specifically, those who have an IQ between 0 and 25 are idiots; IQs between 26 and 50 are considered imbeciles; and those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons.
These terms were popular in psychology as associated with intelligence on an IQ test until around the 1960s.  They were then replaced with the terms mild retardation, moderate retardation, severe retardation, and profound retardation.  In addition to this, other factors besides IQ are now used in diagnosing these levels of mental deficiency."

So you may think, hey, but we don't use those words anymore to diagnose people, so what's the problem? Well, one issue is that the people diagnosed with these conditions prior to 1960 who are still alive (and I know of one family member that is) probably still carry this diagnosis in their file.  They are still labeled as one of those words, as well as this fact:

" In Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Ohio, idiots don’t have the right to vote."

And this fact as recent as 2007:

" California, idiots are one of six types of people who are not capable of committing any form of crime.  In 2007 the term “idiot” was replace with “persons who are mentally incapacitated” in the California legal wording of the penal code on this issue."

This part of the article is the crux of the matter to me:

" Ironically, the term retarded was used to replace the terms idiot, moron, and imbecile due to the fact that these terms gradually became thought of as derogatory.  This obviously only worked for a while and now “retarded” is itself considered a derogatory term.  It seems any word that basically means “low intelligence” is fated to be thought of as derogatory eventually.  So it’s only a matter of time before politically correct terms like “mentally handicapped” will come to be derogatory themselves."

How many times can we keep changing terms that we use to describe or diagnose those with intellectual disabilities? I know that I never use the R word, as I do find it highly offensive.  I have a child that has that word sprinkled all over his first report at the developmental pediatrician.  I'd never mock him that way. But,should I not also ban the other words from my vocabulary as well?  They are mocking others, too.  They are offensive to the mothers that lived before us.  There are still people alive that have that word in their reports from when they were children.  How long will it be before it will be acceptable for people to begin using the R word again to describe bad, or "dumb" things?  Should it ever make a comeback and if not, then would it stand to reason the others words are disrespectful, as well?