Thesis

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet: a further study of the evolving interpretation of intellectual disability terminology

Healthcare providers, including genetic counselors continue to debate which term is most appropriate to describe intellectual disability. A survey was distributed to the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) and Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) workers in order to assess their attitudes towards intellectual disability and different terms for intellectual disability. All surveys provided the exact same descriptive narrative of intellectual disability, except the target term used in the narrative was different. The target term used in the narrative was either intellectual disability, mental retardation, or developmental delay, thereby creating 3 different versions of the survey. Participants were asked to evaluate statements that were designed to assess their interpretation of the definitions of the different terms used, the amount of stigma that the participant associated with the specific target term used in the context of the narrative, and the participant attitudes towards each term. Results suggested that the term used did not have a significant effect on how much stigma participants associated with intellectual disability, but other factors did, such as social dominance orientation, knowing someone with intellectual disability and importance of religion. Even though no significant differences in stigma or attitudes towards the term were found between the terms used, results did suggest that participants define mental retardation as a more strongly limiting state than the other two terms. This difference in itself may imply that mental retardation is stigmatized more than the other two terms. No significant differences were found between how participants defined intellectual disability and developmental delay.

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