"Hey, guess what? I'm not retarded anymore!" : a case study of the differential diagnosis of mental retardation and emotional disturbance

Problems concerning the differential diagnosis of mental retardation and emotional disturbance within the same individual are explored using the case history technique. Information for the case history was gathered from personal interviews, social workers, individual therapy sessions, a personal diary, psychological evaluations, medical evaluations, and cumulative record files. The information collected for the case history is presented in the form of an edited personal document of a young woman who I will call Elizabeth, who was labeled as mentally retarded throughout her school experience, and at the age of twenty-six was reevaluated as being emotionally disturbed. All services which were once available to her were taken away with no immediate provision of supportive services. With the withdraw of sheltered employment, and the chance of entering an independent living program diminished, coupled with personal traumas, hospitalization became necessary. Individual interviews deal with this young woman's understanding about herself, her situation, and her experiences. Separate interviews with her mother and her sister have also given some insight into the families feelings about t.he young woman's diagnosis and how it affected her life. Research on current concepts of mental retardation and emotional disturbance and the efforts on differential diagnosis give an overview of the problems occurring from classification systems. Conclusions were drawn as to the nature of the differential diagnosis citing the literature for support of the authors contentions.