By its very nature, the American Association on Mental Deficiency is composed of a number of disciplines. This year our membership passed the 6100 mark. This does not mean a roster of 6100 psychologists or 6100 doctors or 6100 social workers or that same number of special education instructors. It represents a group of people from many vocations all striving toward the same end—to help the mental retardate.
I submit that the very diversity present in our Association is the source of its greatest strength. We learn and we profit from interdisciplinary cross-fertilization. Even as long ago as 1876, when six men met to form the original constitution, they saw the merits of including for membership “such persons as have distinguished themselves by their interest in this defective class.”
Many of us hold membership in other primary associations, but here in the AAMD, one common bond holding us together, creates a larger and more powerful force. Numbers and diversification lends strength to our message.
Can the AAMD successfully fulfill the needs represented by this diverse membership? Unless there is better and more meaningful communication between the various disciplines represented in the AAMD, the retarded child will suffer. In the last analysis, what the biochemist, the chaplain, the teacher, and others do, they do to and for one person—the retarded child.
How can the AAMD meet this challenge? To begin with, we must recognize, as stated above, that each member probably holds a primary membership in his own professional organization where he identifies himself with respect to his professional skills. Membership in AAMD, therefore, should not attempt to duplicate this professional identification, but should stress, instead, the need to apply these skills in communicating, not only with others in the same profession, but also with those in other disciplines.
Some steps have been taken in recent years to create this type of atmosphere. Membership in the Council has been broadened to include regional representatives. Election procedures have been modified and this year ballots go to all members. Efforts are now being made to alter membership standards and qualifications. This new publication, in the planning stages for several years, has finally reached your desk. A genuine attempt to meet the needs of all our members, this new vehicle has been created to be that medium of communication among our several disciplines that we have needed so desperately.
With this first issue of Mental Retardation, the AAMD attempts to fill a long-felt need. For at least 15 years there have been expressions of interest in a second publication as a companion piece to the American Journal of Mental Deficiency.
I feel that this present attempt to please a large segment of the membership is a sound one. Papers of interest primarily in the biological and psychological areas will continue to appear in AJMD. Of course, others are welcomed as announced in the statement of policy in “Preparation of Articles for the AJMD” in the March 1961 issue. Now papers in the social, training and program areas can appear in this publication.
The many new features in Mental Retardation should make it interesting reading to all members of AAMD as well as to many others working with retarded children. The AAMD is proud to present to its members Mental Retardation.
—William Sloan, President AAMD
Note. This article originally appeared in the February 1963 issue of Mental Retardation.