Washington, DC (November 2, 2006)-The American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR), a 130-year old association representing developmental disability professionals worldwide, has changed its name to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), establishing a new standard in disability terminology and making way for a more socially-acceptable way of addressing people with intellectual disabilities. The AAIDD is arguably best-known for officially defining the condition of mental retardation for the world, and its successful advocacy in abolishing the death penalty for victims with this condition in the United States. The name change will take effect January 1, 2007.
"This new name is an idea whose time has come," says Doreen Croser, Executive Director of AAIDD. "Individuals with disabilities and family members do not like the term 'mental retardation' and their advocacy is encouraging political and social change at national, state, and local levels. Our members demanded that we keep up with times and they voted for this name change." AAIDD members consist of faculty members, researchers, and service professionals working with people with intellectual disabilities in settings such as group homes, institutions, schools, hospitals, private clinics, colleges, and university centers.
The name of the AAIDD has been an ongoing source of contention in the disability community. While it is widely perceived that mental retardation (MR) is a condition that exists, it was also recognized that the term is prone to abuse, misinterpretation, and has devolved into an insult, especially for people with disabilities and family members. Further, the name AAMR was perceived as not in keeping with the progressive orientation of the information, products, and services offered by the Association.
The applause from the community of people with disability was unanimous once the name change was announced. "In taking 'MR' out of your name, you've set a precedent for it to be taken out of the classrooms, the doctors' offices, personal case records, and eventually out of the vocabulary of people walking down the street," says Amy Walker of Illinois Voices, a group working on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities.
Hank Bersani, current President of AAIDD explains, "Intellectual disability is a more accurate and modern term, and is also in keeping with terminology in Europe and Canada. We want to move away from any use of the word 'retardation,' while still allowing educators and other professionals to accurately describe the needs of the people they serve. Further, with the new name, we are reminding our members and the public that our mission has long included people with various developmental disabilities." Most members of AAIDD work closely with people with developmental disabilities since conditions such as autism and Down syndrome often co-exist with an intellectual disability.
Despite the new name, the core mission of the Association still remains the same-to promote progressive policies, sound research, effective practices, and universal rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The AAIDD has changed its name four times since its inception is 1876. The Association last changed its name in 1987 to the American Association on Mental Retardation.
Apart from its definition and advocacy work, the AAIDD is well-known for its journals, the American Journal on Mental Retardation and Mental Retardation. In recent times, the Association has received critical acclaim for the Supports Intensity Scale, a planning tool that empowers people with intellectual disabilities to live a desired life by getting services based on individual needs, not deficits.