In the span of a few decades, it can be said that society has come a very long way in the treatment and view of those who suffer from debilitating mental retardation. As recent as the 1930s, those who were labeled mentally retarded were institutionalized in asylums and locked away from the public. Now, thank goodness, those with mental deficiencies have many more opportunities available to them. .
The AAMR defines mental retardation as a "disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before the age of 18. A complete and accurate understanding of mental retardation involves realizing that mental retardation refers to a particular state of functioning that begins in childhood, has many dimensions, and is affected positively by individualized supports. As a model of functioning, it includes the contexts and environment within which the person functions and interacts and requires a multidimensional and ecological approach that reflects the interaction of the individual with the environment, and the outcomes of that interaction with regards to independence, relationships, societal contributions, participation in school and community, and personal well being." (www.aamr.org) Along with this definition, come the following assumptions essential to applying it properly:.
• Limitations in present functioning must be considered within the context of community environments typical of the individual's age, peers, and culture.
• Valid assessment considers cultural and linguistic diversity as well as differences in communication, sensory, motor, and behavioral factors.
• Within an individual, limitations often coexist with strengths.
• An important purpose describing limitations is to develop a profile of needed supports.