Intellectual Disability: Understanding Its Development, Causes, Classification, Evaluation, and Treatment

By James C. Harris | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

The aim of this book is to provide professionals with the latest and most reliable information on intellectual disability and associated impairments. It utilizes a developmental perspective and reviews the various types of intellectual disability, discusses approaches to classification, diagnosis, and appropriate interventions, and provides information on resources that may offer additional help.

The term “intellectual disability” is used throughout this book instead of “mental retardation” to reflect current perspectives. Intellectual disability refers to impairments in both cognitive functioning and adaptive skills whose onset is during the developmental period. It is a developmental, intellectual, and cognitive disability. Although the term “mental retardation” continues to be used in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) and DSM-IVTR, the continued use of this designation has been questioned because it implies a static, unchanging condition rather than one that can change over time. Other terms, such as “mental handicap” and “learning disability,” have also been used. These variations in terminology are derived from long-standing concerns about the stigma of applying the term “mental retardation” to individuals.

A more general term applied to individuals with intellectual disability is “mental disability.” The World Health Organization and the United Nations generally use the term “mental disability” as a broad descriptor, and the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Olmstead decision emphasizing the importance of community living, also used the term “mental disability.”

The definition of “mental retardation” has changed nine times over the past 100 hundred years in the United States. Such changes in nomenclature come about with the acquisition of new knowledge regarding causes and efforts to preserve the dignity of persons who are intellectually disabled. Reflecting this new knowledge and concerns about the stigma sometimes associated with the term, on July 25, 2003, the name of the federal advisory committee, the Presi

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