Support Changes to Offensive Medical Terminology

Target: American Psychiatric Association

Goal: Praise the American Psychiatric Association for changing the term “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability”

The term “mentally retarded” was once an acceptable term to describe individuals with severe cognitive and intellectual impairments that appear before adulthood.  In more recent decades, the term began to be used in a derogatory manner, leading it to lose its credibility as acceptable language.  As a result, many advocacy groups began using and promoting the term “intellectually disabled” as a replacement, and the term stuck.  Now, the American Psychiatric Association has decided to use the term “intellectual disability” in the fifth-edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V.  The new manual was published on May 18, 2013.

The DSM is used by medical and psychological professionals to diagnose all mental disorders.  By changing the offensive term to “intellectual disability,” parents, doctors, teachers, and families will begin using the term more frequently and the R-word less, leaving it to be seen by all as a swear word that should not be used to describe anyone with special intellectual needs, or anyone at all, for that matter.

Since the advocacy of the new term, not only has the DSM-V began to use it officially, but Social Security is also planning to begin using it.  We must reinforce the proper use of respectful terms for all individuals with disabilities by writing to the American Psychiatric Association and thanking them for this change.


Dear American Psychiatric Association,

I would like to thank you for changing the term “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability” in the DSM-V.  This change of language may seem minor, but it is a major step in the advocacy of individuals with special intellectual needs.

The term “mentally retarded” was once acceptable, however, it began to be used in a derogatory way towards people with and without disabilities.  It has become offensive and hurtful, and hopefully will soon be regarded as a swear word by the general population.  By removing the R-word from the DSM, you have taken a major step in respecting individuals with special intellectual needs.  Medical professionals and the public will soon drop the offensive word in favor of the official term used by the DSM.  Social Security is planning to begin using the new term and hopefully your changes will influence their final decision.

Having any sort of mental disorder is difficult enough on its own.  By removing what has become derogatory language from the DSM, you have helped bring back respect to those with intellectual disabilities.  Again, I thank you on this move and encourage you to continue advocating and respecting those with mental disorders.


[Your Name Here]

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