HANDOUT, "DEFINING MENTAL DISABILITY."
Ask the students to
highlight the descriptions of mentally disabled people that
they consider inappropriate.
- Moron….Legal term. Beginning of the century. Mildly
handicapped. "Feeble minded."
- Mentally Handicapped….one of the more current descriptions.
Considered slightly negative.
- Disturbed…Not an accurate description.
- Mental Defectives…Appropriate in the past.
- Developmentally Delayed…new term. Suggest that development
is possible. Intellectually Handicapped…Term used in New
Zealand and Australia.
- Mental dropped. Mentally Ill…Not appropriate. It's an
illness that affects thinking and behaviour. But it is
an illness. Often temp. and controlled by drugs etc.
- Mongols…past term to describe people who suffer with
Downs Syndrome. Thought that their features resembled
those of the people of Mongolia.
- Autistic. ..Not an appropriate term. Withdrawn from
contact with the world. Often highly intelligent.
- Retards…Not appropriate.
- Epileptic…This is a medical condition. There are over
15000 sufferers in Ireland, some of which are mentally
- Imbecile…Legal term. Beginning of the century. For moderately
- Slow Learners…This is a new term, which is very popular.
Again, it has a positive emphasis.
- Mental Deficient…not appropriate. Implies that the person
is not up to a given standard.
- Idiots…Legal term at the beginning of the century for
severely handicapped people.
- Mentally Retarded…Term used in Canada and U.S.A.
- Educationally Retarded… clumsy not used
- Spastic… People who suffer with C.P. are spastic. That
is, they have paralysis of the brain that affects movement.
- Subnormal…British term that was used until quite recently.
Suggests below average.
- Mentally disabled. The most P.C. description to date.
Although I did hear a leading administrator say that at
the end of the day the best way to describe the people
in his care was people. Mentally disabled people are those
who have.. Low scores on intelligence test. Average 85-115.
Two in every hundred over 130. Below 70 is considered
slow. I.Q. tests are not foolproof. Not always reliable.
Usually a range is given. A different test by a different
tester on a different day /year may yield a different
- Poor social competence…We are talking about a person
who is unable to look after their every day needs. E.g.
prep. of food; keeping house; look after clothes; Person
needs others to look after basic needs and to protect
him/her from danger. N.B. Put bracket around low scores..
and poor social skills.. If person is below 70 but able
to look after herself; NOT mentally handicapped. There
are people out there who wouldn't know how to boil an
egg but they are not handicapped! You need the two. Often
person looks normal. Although, often because of poor socialising
skills the person is noticeably different. Some people
who suffer with Downs Syndrome are close to 70 and are
able to look after themselves. Technically, they are not
- The ability to learn…People who suffer with mental handicap
have an ability and capacity to learn. It's just at a
slower rate. Some come through an education, get jobs
and live independently. These can no longer be defined
as mentally handicapped. This leads into final aspect
of mental disability. People can progress from one category
to another. Social skills normally learned at 15 can be
acquired at 35. Person grows out of handicap.
- Three broad groups. There are no clear-cut divisions!
People can only be identified very loosely. The ratio
is 4: 2: 1
- Mild Mental Handicap. Usually nothing physically wrong.
Handicap becomes apparent during school. Attend special
classes. End up in ordinary jobs generally.
- Moderate Mental Handicap. Usually have some identifiable
physical abnormality. Attend special national schools
and go to sheltered workshops or training centres. Only
small proportion find ordinary jobs.
- Severe Mental Handicap. Frequently have additional handicaps.
Not allowed to attend school. Go to special care units
where there is a nursing staff. This group also includes
the profoundly handicapped. The least able. Pronounced
handicaps. Residential care usually.
- National Intellectual Disability database, 1997, gave
a figure of 26,694 people with learning disability in
Ireland. Finally, ask class to make a list of as many
feelings they can think of. People with learning disability
experience the same range of feelings and emotions as
others. They have the normal experiences of joys and sorrows.
Different ability levels do not mean different altogether.