Regular readers know that my better half and I were blessed with a special needs child two years ago. Developmentally he is greater than one year delayed despite significant Early Childhood Intervention and private physical, occupational, and speech therapy services. While it’s too soon to do formal IQ testing we understand that his intellectual capability is going to be significantly sub average. In other words, he’s going to be retarded. As a parent of a retarded child it is frustrating to no end when people engage in though policing saying it’s not appropriate to say “retarded.” While they may intend good from their thought policing; there is nothing more damaging that they can do to a child in such a situation.
Criteria for Mental Retardation
The criteria for mental retardation, which is now called Intellectual Disability, has slightly different criteria depending on whether you use the American Psychological Association (APA) DSM-V criteria or the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Separate from those two organizations, capital punishment jurisprudence and Social Security administrative considerations are significantly different, with Social Security’s administrative criteria likely Unconstitutional, for now.
Since the APA and corresponding DSM-V definition is used more often that is the definition that will be used to show how thought policing is damaging to those who have intellectual impairment. To meet the diagnostic criteria according to DSM-V the individual must have:
- Deficits in intellectual functioning—“reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning, and learning from experience”—confirmed by clinical evaluation and individualized standard IQ testing (APA, 2013, p. 33);
- Deficits in adaptive functioning that significantly hamper conforming to developmental and sociocultural standards for the individual’s independence and ability to meet their social responsibility; and
- The onset of these deficits during childhood
While a hard IQ threshold is no longer considered, the general concept of, “functioning two or more standard deviations below the general population” is retained. However, rather than looking at specific skills as was done in DSM-IV, the current criteria looks at “domains.”
This is problematic because although IQ isn’t seen as being able to have a bright line indicator of borderline intellectual functioning versus mild mental retardation, the IQ testing instruments are both becoming more sophisticated assessments and also are regularly renormed so that assessment stays current relative to the population. In other words, IQ testing takes increasingly sophisticated looks at the intellectual skills for independent functioning, and also is periodically renormed so it stays current to societal adaptive functioning levels.
In capital punishment jurisprudence it is accepted that commonly used testing instruments have a 5 point margin of error (see Hall v Florida, 572 U.S. 701 (2014)). With the Supreme Court accepting the testing instrument margin of error as the standard states have followed by necessity and that’s become the standard for criminal jurisprudence. This effectively leaves adaptive functioning as the criteria used to determine mental retardation. As mentioned earlier, Social Security does not recognize this standard and has a much more strict requirement.
Hall is a 5-4 case with Justice Kennedy siding with the Court’s liberal block. With his retirement, and Social Security disregarding the Supreme Court’s decision and using their own standard, there’s concern that Hall’s days are numbered. As a result, focus has switched from adaptive functioning. Rather than discuss the good of the individual; the focus is driven by capital punishment jurisprudence and what may come to pass. This refocused significant time/energy towards the nexus between causation and adaptive functioning deficits rather than on how to address the deficits.
Borderline Intellectual Functioning
One of the biggest problems with DSM-V and intellectual disabilities is they have eliminated Borderline Intellectual Functioning (BIF) from consideration. Some argue that BIF needs to be reinserted into the DSM as it is a distinct impairment, and that the impairment causes significant difficulties for the afflicted. They are spot on. An individual who is BIF, and has a co-occurring impairment is going to have a significantly more difficult time adapting to the challenge from the co-occurring impairment. However, BIF is also a goal to achieve for those with intellectual impairment.
The concept of BIF was captured in Hall with the Court indicating that IQ is not a bright line and that the testing instrument margin of error can see individuals miscategorized either direction. This means an individual who has 70-74 IQ can be mentally retarded, and an individual with 65-69 IQ can be BIF. The determination comes down to the degree of adaptive functioning. This implicit recognition of BIF in the 65-69 IQ range gives hope to parents, and a goal for the impaired, that with hard work and perseverance the impaired can achieve a degree of adaptive functioning that will lead to some degree of independence or modified independent living and participation in the work force.
With the APA eliminating BIF from consideration and the focus switching to jurisprudence what ifs there’s no strong voice to look out for the good of the impaired. This lack of a strong voice focusing on the good of the impaired has given rise to a vacuum for the good of the individual, and the result is thought police are moving in to fill the void with petty (since I’m keeping it family friendly) arguments such as “R word” and admonishments against usage in any form. Nothing could be more damaging to those with the impairment.
Thought Police Harm the Impaired
Bullying is not acceptable. However, in the vast majority of the cases uses of the word retarded does not occur in a bullying context. Calling something retarded, or an individual a libtard or consevatard is not engaging in bullying towards those who are afflicted with mental retardation. Even in instances where the tard suffix is a childish attempt to bully, it is an attempt to bully on the basis of a different political persuasion rather than at the ones who have the impairment.
The argument the thought police use is based on it being disrespectful/degrading to those who are actually mentally retarded. While there’s some superficial merit to that argument; the harm to the mentally retarded far outweighs any abstract harm to dignity that arises from the use of the word. To paraphrase President Bush, it burdens the afflicted with the harm of low expectations. If the goal is to provide intervention, support, and training to improve the lot of the mentally retarded to BIF; the imposition of low expectations runs counter to the good of the individual, and by extension to society.
However, that’s the lesser of the harms the thought police impart upon the mentally retarded. Not only does thought policing saddle the impaired with the harm of low expectations it also conditions society to believe the afflicted are incapable of exceeding the low expectations. The thought police are, by and large, in the it takes a village camp where individual accomplishment is secondary to community standards.
This opens the door to a myriad of problems that range from Iceland encouraging abortion of Down syndrome babies to the Netherlands legalizing euthanasia for psychological conditions. We very quickly have gone from a nation where abortion was supported under the guise of “safe, legal, and rare” to “abortion on demand without apology.” Virginia debated a bill where abortion during dilation was permissible and infanticide by intentional neglect was considered. Virginia’s state legislature switched from Republican to Democratic hands last week. How long will it be before some iteration of the bill is passed?
Rather than see the mentally retarded as valued members of society with inherent dignity the thought police impose a faux dignity to the point is suits their political agenda. Once that faux dignity is no longer useful the impaired are no longer useful and become expendable. Not exactly expendable, because they still have use as examples of why the liberal agenda on abortion and euthanasia are the “compassionate” choice.
We need to look out for the interest of the mentally retarded because they are not well equipped to look out for their own best interest. Part of that means continuing to push for interventions to improve their adaptive functioning so they can achieve some degree of independence and self sufficiency. Part of that means standing up to the thought police and others who would exploit them to achieve political goals that are not in the best interest of the mentally retarded.