Fernald Flicker

Winter 2002-03

Author unknown


The Fernald League for the Retarded is the advocacy organization for present and former residents of the Fernald Developmental Center and the Templeton Developmental Center. Its membership includes family members, guardians and friends of these individuals with mental retardation. The Fernald League was founded in 1952 and incorporated in 1956 as the Fernald League for Retarded Children.

From 1952 until today the care and understanding of people with mental retardation may have improved more than the previous 100 years or longer. Let's hope the rate of improvement continues indefinitely.

During my brief career as an advocate for severely and profoundly retarded people and those with complex medical or behavioral conditions, I have not been exposed to mentally retarded persons with a high cognitive level, who consider the word "retarded" as demeaning, especially when "retarded" is used as a noun. I work with families of severely and profoundly retarded individuals. The parents will always consider these individuals as "their children" and did not like deleting "children" from the League's name. Now, our league name is the only place where "retarded" is used as a noun.

Today some organizations are using their name's acronym or abbreviation as their organization name. Some organizations are eliminating the words "mental retardation" from their mission statement. This pacifies the mildly retarded individuals who want to eliminate the word retarded from the English language.

This is a variation on the stigma theme. In the past the word "cancer " was a word to be avoided when talking with a patient. In terms of the diagnostic process, patients do not have cancer because we say so; they have an illness that has the name cancer. It is the same thing with mental retardation and mental illness.

In my other life as a structural engineer our clients say, "Do not just tell me that my building cannot be built as I envision but suggest alternate constructible methods."

Advocates for purging the words "mentally retarded" from our language - what is your alternate name for this cognitive condition that will not result in the loss of any of the governmental funding for the people with mental retardation whom we serve?

Read about The Arc's position on this issue