Letter to the Editor

Name change is commendable

Monday, October 20, 2008

To the editor:

Gov. Matt Blunt's executive order changing the name of the Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to the Division of Developmental Disabilities is a commendable action.

The unfortunate fact of our society is that the term "retarded" is used by some people in a derogatory and insensitive manner. Children will use it to tease or humiliate one another.

The movie "Tropic Thunder" used the term "retard" in a demeaning way. Such a hurtful term does not need to be in the title of a state agency, especially an agency with a mission to reduce the stigma of having a developmental disability.

With this change, Missouri joins more than 40 other states that have removed retardation from their state agency's name.

Private and not-for-profit organizations throughout the nation have made similar changes.

In 2003 President Bush changed the President's Committee on Mental Retardation to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Mental retardation by definition is just one type of developmental disability along with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Down syndrome, autism and others. It is therefore already included in the division name.

In the past, some people have expressed concern that changing the name of the division would impact the mission of the division in delivering services and limit its funding. This change will have absolutely no impact on services or funding.

PHILLIP McCLENDON, Chair, Missouri Mental Health Commission, Jefferson City, Mo.