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Social Security plans to do away with term "mental retardation"

For many disabled adults and children, social security disability benefits provide a much-needed source of income. As the stigma associated with certain physical and mental disabilities dissipates, some disability advocates have called for changes in the language of how disabled individuals are described and addressed.

Categorized as a disability that impacts an individual's general intellectual functioning, those who are classified as being mentally retarded often require life-long assistance. Mental retardation is typically diagnosed at a young age and often results in those impacted having a lower than average IQ. Additionally, individuals with mental retardation may need assistance in caring for basic personal needs such as eating, dressing and bathing.

Oftentimes, their disability prevents individuals living with mental retardation from taking part in everyday activities and social functions. These individuals may also have difficulty concentrating and may experience extended periods of time where their symptoms worsen. For these reasons, many individuals diagnosed as being mentally retarded are not able to secure or maintain a job.

In recent years, there has been a push to change how individuals living with mental retardation are classified. During 2010, Congress passed Rosa's Law which required that all government programs related to health, education and labor stop using the term "mental retardation". Today, these governmental agencies recognize individuals living with the aforementioned symptoms as having an "intellectual disability".

Recently, officials at the Social Security Administration announced plans to also adopt the term intellectual disability to replace any mention of mental retardation. The move comes in response to derogatory ways in which the previous term has been used as well as to help alleviate a stigma associated with the term retardation.

The proposed change is currently pending, but will likely be adopted by the Social Security Administration in the near future.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Social Security Proposes Dropping 'Mental Retardation'," Michelle Diament, Jan. 29, 2013

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