Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's In a Name?

Last week, the House of Representatives passed Rosa's Law, a measure aimed at changing special education terminology in federal law. Approved by the Senate earlier this summer, the bill is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama this Fall, and will eliminate the terms 'mental retardation' and 'mentally retarded individual' and replace them with 'intellectual disability' and 'an individual with an intellectual disability,' respectively.

The term, 'mental retardation,' or MR, has historically been used to describe individuals with severe cognitive disabilities. MR remains a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV-TR, though the draft version of the new DSM-5, which is released for public comment, proposes to replace the term as well.

Who is Rosa? She's an 8 year old girl with Down Syndrome who lives in Edgewater, MD with her family, including her 14-year old brother, Nick, who told ABCnews.com, "The word retarded is slang to call someone stupid, and we know Rosa is not stupid at all. Words are important."

See Senator Mikulski, D-Md., introduce the bill in the Senate. Here is the bill in its entirety.