BLIND SPOT: Let’s get ID started



In 2004, the hip-hop group, The Black Eyed Peas, released the song, “Let’s Get RETARDED.” A few months later, they would re-record the single with slight changes as “Let’s Get it Started.” Popular notion had it then, that the song had to be changed to make it unoffensive, and thus more marketable. However, unlike the local Filipino connotation of the term, “let’s get retarded” is actually a West Coast United States “popular slang reference to getting really messed up on alcohol or drugs in order to free the spirit and drop the inhibitions”; often referring to liquor and marijuana, “used in a party-setting with accompanying music.” (www.urbandictionary.com) However, what does that imply of the social attitudes towards people with mental retardation? That they are people perceived to be messed up, without inhibitions, and without control? Many people are probably unaware that the term, “mental retardation” or “retarded” or any of the like has long been buried in antiquity. In 2007, “in the United States, a federal statute (Public Law 111-256, Rosa’s law) replaced the term ‘mental retardation’ with ‘intellectual disability’.” “The term ‘mental retardation’ was introduced by the American Association on Mental Retardation in 1961 and soon afterwards was adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5).” “Mental retardation replaced older terms such as feeblemindedness, idiocy, and mental subnormality that had become pejorative.” (www.medscape.com). Intellectual disability is defined as “a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functions (below average IQ) and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills”; which “originates before the age of 18.” (American Association on Intellectual Disability, aaidd.org) Presidential Proclamation No. 1385 s. 1975, by President Ferdinand E. Marcos, designates the period from February 14 to 20, 1975, and every year thereafter, as “Retarded Children’s Week.” “Eventually, the observance was named “National Mental Retardation Week” and finally, “National Intellectual Disability Week.” Previously the celebration was held every first week of December; by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1349, s. 1974, and before that, every third week of November; by virtue of Proclamation No. 479, s. 1968. In the initial 1968 proclamation, the celebration is aimed “for the purpose of continuously and consistently interpreting to Philippine society the needs and potentials of the mentally retarded”; citing in its previous paragraphs, “mentally retarded children, given early diagnosis and suitable care and training can achieve significant improvements mentally, physically, socially and vocationally, thus transforming them into useful manpower for the country.” It is interesting to note that a presidential proclamation for persons with intellectual disability far predates those of other sectors of persons with disability (Bone & Joint (Musculo-Skeletal) Disorders Awareness Week in 2004, Autism Consciousness Week in 1996, Deaf Awareness Week in 1991, White Cane Safety Day in 1989, Physical Handicap Week in 1974); however no organization is prominently, actively and exclusively advocating and pushing for rights and privileges in the context of social inclusion of persons with intellectual disability. What options does a person with disability have in seeking opportunities for eventual employment? In the ideal perspective, “a child with an intellectual disability can do well in school but is likely to need the individualized help that’s available as special education and related services”. (www.parentcenterhub.org) ”Unlike students who pull all-nighters and cram before exams, Mount Aloysius College (Pennsylvania, USA) student Katie Apostolides has been working diligently in preparation for midterms since her first day of class. She starts papers and projects the day they are assigned, meets weekly with a different peer tutor for each of her classes, and knows to take short breaks throughout her studying in an effort to stay focused and on task. These and other strategies help Apostolides learn at a collegiate level in spite of her Down syndrome, an intellectual disability. If Apostolides passes her classes this semester, she will receive her associate’s degree. But Apostolides’s success in college is the exception rather than the rule for students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. According to preliminary results of an ongoing Department of Education study, less than one quarter of students with intellectual disabilities have participated in some type of postsecondary education. None has completed a degree.” (www.usnews.com) “Throughout Canada today, there are thousands of adults with intellectual disabilities who are gainfully employed within the competitive labour force. Initiatives are implemented “to increase labour force participation of people with intellectual disabilities, and thereby advance economic productivity and social inclusion”. (www.cacl.ca) “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” Proverbs 14:31