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AADMD Statement on “R-word” Usage for Health Professionals

in AADMD, Article, Info Blast

Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) deserve respect and should be considered valued members of our society. The term “mental retardation” has evolved to be degrading and hurtful and is now associated by the public with intentional insulting stereotypes. Special Olympics International began the” Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign in 2008 as an effort to create awareness that the usage of the “R-word” must be eliminated. In October 2010, President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” which removed the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with the people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.” This effort by the Academy to change clinical practice communication describing a group of individuals is more than semantics. It demonstrates professionalism and builds respect and understanding with patients that have intellectual disabilities.

The “R-word” has been historically used by healthcare professionals to describe this population and continues to be in common usage in hospitals, clinics, private practices, as well as in clinical and research journals despite an extensive social, national, and federal campaign to end the practice. The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry in partnership with Special Olympics is imploring Medical and Dental schools, and US Healthcare professional organizations to ask its members and students to sign the pledge to “End the Word”.

The annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign for Health care professionals begins again on March 4, 2015. The annual day of awareness has been selected as the first Wednesday in March. Please share this campaign flyer and “Spread the Word” through email, media and word of mouth. Your example and advocacy is needed.

The AADMD Board strongly encourages all AADMD members to take the pledge as well all healthcare organizations and their members to support and respect people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD).

The AADMD further encourages health professionals to advocate in their local community to spread awareness of these efforts.

If you haven't already signed the pledge, it can be found at: Additional promotional materials that can be shared are available at: These tools are effective year-round to host your local “Spread the Word to End the Word” day of awareness in your community.

The AADMD encourages people to share their stories at:

Individuals with I/DD are members of our society as well as our patients. Care is enhanced by being sensitive and respectful to those that we support and treat. Be the difference in your community today!

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