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"I am intelligent": The social construction of mental retardation

Written Material

The central argument of this article is that intellectual disability is not simply an objective, discoverable 'truth' that simply exists in the world. Rather, intellectual disability is a socially constructed phenomena that cannot exist outside of its particular cultural backdrop (for example, see the article regarding the way Navajo peoples view their members with intellectual disability, File No. 10437). The two ways of seeing intellectual disability discussed in this article are deeply embedded in Western culture - these are the normative and competence based approach. Those people from the normative school of thought believe that events in the world have a discoverable, objective truth - thus there is an emphasis upon diagnosis, the measuring of IQ and how far a person deviates from the 'norms' of society. Those within the competence school of thought believe that events differ with the experiences of those engaged in them and that truth is a subjective matter - the emphasis is therefore on what people can do rather than how they deviate (for an example of someone who believes in this approach see the article titled "Hey Joe"). Both of these approaches are then discussed in terms of how they apply to facilitated communication. Keyword: Theory

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Biklen, Douglas Duchan, Judith Felson
JASH Volume 19 Number 3
Publication Date
1 January 1994
United States

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