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“Retarded”: no more.

Retarded–no more.

Poster made by HS students

Sept. 22, 2010 The US House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill to replace the term “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability.” The Senate previously passed this bill. President Obama signed the legislation into law.

This is a triumph for all of us, but especially for people with disabilities, their parents and families who have carried the burden of the word retarded.

Below is one of the press releases/alerts I received from the group of parents of children with disabilities and advocates Our Children Left Behind and The Autism National Committee.

Tomorrow I want to talk about the role of parents and advocates in making a difference in our world and getting legislation passed. Rosa’s bill is named after a young woman with Down syndrome, you can bet her mom was involved.

But today I just wanted to show what a great press release and call to action looks like. So no need for phone calls–the bill is passed.


What are the components of this press release that would make you want to take action? no action?

Just for transparency, I support this bill and have been a member of Aut-Com and followed Our Children Left Behind almost since they began.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All the best,


Here is some information from the advocacy group, “Our Children Left Behind.” Posted by: “” Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:57 pm (PDT)

Hi, all! This is from Jessica Butler, long time advocate and mom of a child with a disability. Legislation has passed the US Senate (“Rosa’s Law”) that would eliminate the use of the “R” word (“retarded”) with the less loaded term of “intellectual disability.” We believe this change would help eliminate the stigma currently associated with the “R” word, and this law would cost NO money to implement.

If you agree, please make a quick call to your U.S. (federal)
representative (see instructions below), and please share – thanks!

(The Senate has passed this bill but the US House still needs to – if it’s not passed before the end of the legislative term, the process will have to start all over again from the beginning in the next term.)


As the year winds down, we’ve all talked and debated many important policy matters. You’ve heard a lot about restraint/ seclusion/aversives, and you will be hearing more about legislation regarding these dangerous techniques. We’ve all called Congress about recovering expert witness fees, Buckhannon, unlevel playing fields, and woefully inadequate educations that do little to prepare children with disabilities to succeed (much less go to college or earn a living).

But as you sip your morning coffee, tea, or Mountain Dew, I’d like to try to convince you to make one more call to Congress– a short call for human dignity. The Senate has passed Rosa’s law (S.2781), a bill to replace “mental retardation” in our federal laws with “intellectual disability.” Now, it’s time to ask your Representative to do the same.

Maybe this isn’t as big a deal as all the other kinds of legislation. But as WE know, “retarded” is used as a slur, demeaning and denigrating to 6 million adults and children in America. The stereotypes associated with the “R” word connote the slamming door of “can’t” more than the hopefulness of “can” which encourages people to teach children with intellectual disabilities to succeed. Even some of our archaic restraint/seclusion practices are premised on outdated stereotypes that children with intellectual disabilities cannot understand anything else.

Eliminating the “R word” may not cure the stereotypes, but it will help bring society closer to realizing that people with intellectual disabilities are part of all of us. Of course, it’s hard to eliminate it when our core disabilities laws use it. Nearly 1/2 million children with IEPs are categorized as “mentally retarded.”

S.2781, Rosa’s Law, would change all of this. It will replace “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disability” in our federal laws. These include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the law formerly known as No Child Left Behind), Rehabilitation Act, Public Health Service Act, Health Research and Health Services Amendments and a number of other health and disability laws. S. 2781 will also update federal regulations.

Some people think this bill is silly or wasteful; many of us do not.

It’s about dignity for people with intellectual disabilities.

Rosa’s Law will not impact services, rights or educational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. It just replaces one phrase with another; everything else stays the same. It will not cost any money. Federal Regulations and Statute Prints will be updated on the same schedule they always are. The bill will not force states to change their own laws if they do not want to. Rosa’s Law is a bipartisan bill, it was cosponsored by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and 40 other Senators from both parties. The Senate passed the bill last month and sent it to the House.

But now the legislative session is winding down. To make S. 2781 a
federal law, the House of Representatives must pass it. If the House does not, we start all over again next year…..from the very beginning.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CALLING YOUR REPRESENTATIVE. Please take 5 minutes and call your Congressional Representative. Ask him/her to support S.2781. Dial 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). Ask for the aide who handles disability or health care. If you get voicemail, please leave a detailed message. You can also find direct dial numbers on your Representative’s webpage at _ ( . If you do not know who your Congressional Representative is, go to _ ( and put your zip code into the box in the upper left corner. (You usually only need your five digit zip code, even though it asks for 9.)

It is much much better to make a call, because Congress is so busy in the final weeks that reading email will be delayed. If you cannot call due to disability or other severe constraints, please send an email but perhaps ask a friend to also make a call. Email can be sent through _ ( .

Everyone should call your own Representative. But it’s particularly
important to call your Representative if he/she is on the House Education and Labor Committee (see _ ( for a list of members) or House Energy and Commerce Committee ((for a list of members, go to _ ( or go to _ ( and click on About and then Members) or in the House leadership. Energy & Commerce handles the federal health laws, which Rosa’s bill will also update. If your Representative is on Energy & Commerce, please ask for the Energy & Commerce aide. Tell this aide this is why the Committee has the bill and ask them to support it. Both committees must approve the bill to send it on to the full House.

Perhaps Rosa’s Law is a small change, but it is one that will say a lot about our national cultural attitude toward people with intellectual disabilities. Updating our federal laws will not eliminate stereotyping or low expectations for children with intellectual disabilities, but it is a step in the right direction. It’s a way to make sure America’s laws stand up for human dignity rather than archaic terms.

More info on the web: S.2781, Rosa’s Law in full:
( .
Statement of Senator Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Enzi (R-WY) upon introducing the bill: (

I wish you a great week. I hope you’ll join me in taking 5 minutes out to call your Congressional Representative and ask him/her to pass S.2781, Rosa’s Law. It’s a simple bill and an easy call to make. You have all you need above. If you agree with me, make a call and send this message on to 5 friends (or 20 or 50).

It’s a step for Human Dignity.


Jessica Butler
Congressional Affairs Coordinator
Autism National Committee (_www.autcom.org_ ( )
Former Chair, COPAA Board of Directors (2007-08)
_jessicabutler@ymail.com_ (
permission to forward is freely granted.

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Our Children Left Behind (
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16 Responses to ““Retarded”: no more.”

  • I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thanks again!

  • Mary Lou Carter says:

    Hi so glad that in the US the word “retarded” is no longer used. My son with intellectual disability is no 20 and I had never heard the word “retarded” until I started looking for information in the States via the internet and realised that the peak body in America had the words “Mental Retardation” in the name — glad that’s changed now.

    Here in Australia the peak body for people with cerebral palsy was called The Spastic Centre until this year — gald that’s changed now too.

    Cheers to you all from the Land Down Under

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Hi Mary Lou. Loved your comment mate (hope I used that appropriately:)).

      We often forget different countries use different vocabulary and labels. The label of “mental retardation” was used so widely in the US because that was the official medical label. And the medical label was the ticket to get services. The stigma associated with the words “mental retardation” was a cultural label.

      I’ve heard of the “spastic centre” but don’t know much about it. I think it’s great you were able to change any word that causes people pain.

      Hope you’ll share more of your experiences.

  • Thank you for give very nice info. Your website is very goodI am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more. You, my friend, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched everywhere and just couldn’t find. What a perfect site. Like this website your website is one of my new favs.I like this information given and it has given me some sort of commitment to succeed for some reason, so keep up the good work

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Not many people want to talk about what “retarded” means. I’m glad this was helpful. Hope you’ll share some of your own stories.

  • This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      I’m flattered. But the best thanks you can give is to no longer use the word retarded and confront your friends when they use it.

  • Great job, Mary, for being involved and advocating.
    Alison Golden recently posted..Katy Perry Kisses Elmo And Likes It

  • Marti Otten says:

    Advocate, educate & create positive change!

  • Becke Davis says:

    This is great news, Mary. Baby steps, but still good news.

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