Saturday, March 29, 2008

Retarded People and the Mentally Challenged

When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to hear people refer to the “mentally challenged” as “slow.” Another term that was sometimes used was “backward.” Both terms seem like a polite way of referring to someone with a mental deficiency. Some older people would say someone was “touched”, whatever that means. I don’t know why it became unacceptable to use those term.

For many years those with a mental deficiency were referred to as “retarded” then that term fell out of favor. “Retarded” simply means delayed; I don’t know why that term became offensive. Sometime the mentally challenged are referred to as “developmentally delayed” but I think that term is normally used for children, who could possibly catch up. Another term that is sometimes used is “mentally disabled”, but I am not sure if that is an OK term to use. I assume the current politically correct term is “mentally challenged” unless it changed and no one told me. I know some people use the term “special” or simply “disabled” or “challenged” but those terms don’t differentiate between a metal condition and a physical condition so they don’t tell you very much.

While I find a lot of political correctness downright silly, I usually comply with the prevailing terminology, but I wait until it is the prevailing term and am never in the forefront of the change in a terminology. I would rather people listen to what I have to say rather than be distracted by my use of an out-dated term. I think the reason the terminology has to change so often, is that as soon as people realize the new term means the same thing as the old term a stigma becomes associated with the new term and it has to be changed again.

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