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SSA to stop using term 'mental retardation'

Social Security officials have decided that the Social Security Administration will be the latest government agency to stop using the term "mental retardation." Instead, the term “intellectual disability" will be used in its place, a final rule in the Federal Register announced last week.

Social Security officials said the change was made due to "widespread adoption" of the term "intellectual disability" after advocates asserted that the former term carried negative connotations. Social Security officials said it was agreed that the term "mental retardation" is offensive to many and can lead to misunderstandings about the conditions that are described by the term.

The announcement means that the terms will be swapped throughout the length of Social Security’s Listing of Impairments for adults and children and other agency rules. However, the change in terms will not affect the way the SSA qualifies disabilities for purposes of Social Security Disability benefits.

There were a total of 76 public comments on the issue before a decision was made, 71 of which supported getting rid of the term "mental retardation." Social Security officials decided to approve the change and it will go into effect in 30 days.

Close to three years ago, Rosa’s Law changed references of “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor policy, and the fifth edition of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now also uses "intellectual disability” in place of "mental retardation."

Many states have also changed the terms in their laws, records and policies.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Social Security To Drop ‘Mental Retardation,’” Michelle Diament, Aug. 2, 2013 

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