History of Stigmatizing Names for Intellectual Disabilities Continued
Imbecile is another French term derived from the Latin word meaning "without support." The term originally was used in reference to someone who was physically weak. This meaning stayed with the term from the middle of the sixteenth century until the early nineteenth century. Imbecile was used as a medical term to classify individuals with moderate intellectual disability. Like the term idiot, it gradually entered the vernacular and became a term of abuse.
Mongolism (or mongoloid) was a medical term used to identify someone with Down syndrome LINK CAUSES Genetic p. 16. For obvious reasons, the Mongolian People's Republic requested that the medical community cease the use of this term. Their request was granted in the 1960s, when the World Health Organization agreed that the term should no longer being used within the medical community.
As introduced by S.G. Howe (1846), simpleton was supposed to be a medical term referring to individuals with mild intellectual disability. However, it never fully entered the worldwide medical community's terminology. The term was later replaced by "moron."
Moron was an invented word that found its way into the English language when psychologist Henry Goddard used the term to classify a group of people who had mild intellectual disabilities. The term was used to replace feeble-minded, which was misused by society to refer to individuals with any severity of intellectual disability. Goddard created the novel word by combining parts of words like sophomore and oxymoron.
Feeble-minded came from the Latin word flebilis, meaning "to be lamented," and referred to individuals who were not profoundly disabled but still required intervention and care.
Retarded comes from the Latin retardare, "to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder." The term was recorded in 1426 as a "fact or action of making slower in movement or time." The first record of the word "retarded" in relation to developmental delay was in 1895. The term retarded was used to replace terms like idiot, moron, and imbecile because it was not a derogatory term at that time. By the 1960s, however, the term had taken on a somewhat derogatory meaning as well.
Perhaps the negative connotations associated with each of these terms for intellectual disabilities reflect the public's ambivalent attitude about these conditions. There are competing desires among various elements of society, some of whom seek respectful, neutral medical terms, and others who want to use such terms as weapons with which to abuse people. For health care professionals, diagnostic labels serve as a form of short-hand communication. A diagnostic label rapidly communicates a set of symptoms associated with a particular disorder or condition, and may simultaneously suggest an appropriate treatment. However, when physical and psychological conditions carry a social stigma the diagnostic labels themselves may become stigmatizing and lose their intended medical meaning.
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-V). The DSM-V will use a diagnostic term "intellectual development disorder" to identify diagnostic criteria associated with intellectual disabilities.