There are multiple issues surrounding the definition and classification of students with an intellectual disability. It is important to consider this aspect as it relates to special and regular educators as well as parents of children with an intellectual disability.
Definition of Students with an Intellectual Disability
Intellectual disabilities also referred to as Mental retardation (MR) is a generalized disorder appearing in childhood. It is characterized by significantly impaired cognitive functioning. It is often defined as an IQ score under 70. Once focused almost entirely on cognition, the definition now includes both a component relating to mental functioning and one relating to individuals’ functional skills in their environment. As a result, a person with a below-average intelligence quotient may not be considered mentally retarded.
Classification of Students with an Intellectual Disability
There was an overwhelming feeling that it is most important to look first at the individual. Although labels are a predominantly a strong social factor, it seems that it not only hurts the children to label them, but also the words ‘intellectual disability’ can be harsh to parents and children. Not only do people receive the label intellectual disability but sometimes also mental retardation. The label ‘retardation’ has many negative associations beyond a special needs label. Labels are needed to access not only where the child is at but also what is actually the reason for the child’s special services. This can help to find ways to help the child and better understand the child’s development. It is really hard to know how to appropriately address a child when you do not know the history of the child including their diagnosis, but at the same time the specific label ‘mental retardation’ seems to be the worst label in our social context because of how else those words are used. Intellectual disability may help to bridge the gap and the next term they use may be even better, but truly individual’s need to learn to appreciate their differences in order for stereotypes to disappear.
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