The journal Mental Retardation (MR) is no more. It is now Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, or IDD. Mental Retardation was established by the American Association on Mental Retardation (then the American Association on Mental Deficiency—AAMD) in 1963 and is now in its 44th year of publication. At the time that this journal was established, the terminology in the field was undergoing a transition. The phrase mental retardation was regarded as less pejorative and more descriptive than mental deficiency. It is certainly not a coincidence that the President's Panel on Mental Retardation (later the President's Committee on Mental Retardation and now the President's Committee on People With Intellectual Disabilities), which was founded at around the same time as MR, used the same terminology selected by AAMD for its new journal. For the next 15 years, however, AAMD continued to use mental deficiency in its name and in the name of its first journal, the American Journal of Mental Deficiency—AJMD.
As in the early 1960s, terminology in this field is undergoing a transition. Like the phrase mental deficiency, mental retardation has come to be associated with pejorative meanings. The term retard is used interchangeably with such previous terms as idiot, imbecile, and moron as a general epithet. In the international professional community, mental retardation has been replaced with terminology such as intellectual disability and learning difficulties. Increasingly, self-advocates and others find the phrase mental retardation to be not only out-dated, but offensive as well.
The Association has changed its name, as of January 1, 2007, to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. So, it is fitting for this journal to change its name as well. Intellectual and developmental disabilities is simply less stigmatizing than mental retardation, mental deficiency, feeble-mindedness, idiocy, imbecility, and other terminology we have cast aside; however, anyone who believes that we have finally arrived at the perfect terminology will be proven wrong by history. I am sure that at some future point in time the leadership of this Association and its journal editors will find the phrase intellectual and developmental disabilities to be inadequate and demeaning.
Terminology has been debated repeatedly in this journal. I hope the debates will continue.—S.J.T.