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State Legislature Working To Ban ‘Retarded’ From Language

By Stephanie Lucero, CBS 11 News
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A woman takes a photo of the Texas Senate chamber during the 82nd Legislative session. (credit: Ben Sklar/Getty Images)

A woman takes a photo of the Texas Senate chamber during the 82nd Legislative session. (credit: Ben Sklar/Getty Images)

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AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Legislature is considering a law that will ban terms like “mentally retarded, disabled, and crippled” from many new state documents.  But some experts say the list of banned words may go too far.

Texas House Bill 1481 passed yesterday and it says “the legislature and the Texas Legislative Council are directed to avoid using the following terms . . . (1) disabled; (2) developmentally disabled; (3) mentally disabled, (4) mentally ill; (5) mentally retarded; (6) handicapped; (7) cripple; and (8) crippled. “    The bill says those words should be replaced with “preferred phrases” such as “persons with disabilities”; “persons with developmental disabilities”;  “persons with mental illness”; and “persons with intellectual disabilities.”

Alex Flores is the mother of two boys who are both autistic. “I dread the day that someone calls one of my children ‘retard,’” says Flores.

Flores says terms like “mentally retarded” and “crippled” are derogatory.  “I don’t know if I prefer developmentally disabled or developmentally challenged” says Flores.   “I don’t think one is any harsher than the other” she adds.   Flores says she doesn’t object to the word “handicapped”.

Max Nelson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Supervisor at the SEAY Behavioral Health Center at Texas Health Plano.  Nelson says the term “mentally retarded” is a clinical term commonly used in diagnosing an intellectual disability.  “If it’s simply a change of words to be more politically correct, if you will, then let’s look at another way to do it” says Nelson.  Nelson says he  encourages parents to use a dictionary and talk to their children about these terms.  He says often children who bully don’t know the definition of these words but do know it has a very negative connotation.  “It holds the potential to be very harmful”, particularly to children who have developmental delays.

Lawmakers say the House and the Senate versions of the bill do not apply to private businesses or the spoken words used by public employees.  The changes would be made in new State documents used by schools, and other state-funded facilities.  New statutes and revisions to current laws would also include the preferred terms if the proposal is passed into law.   The State Senate is reviewing its version of the bill.

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