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  #1  
Old 08-15-2007, 11:50 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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What happens to mentally retarded people later in life?

I've seen some adult retarded individuals working at Wendy's or Taco Bell, but I've seen far more that are younger.

If an individual has a retarded child, what can they expect for their child's future? What is typical for retarded peoplesa lives?

In addition, is the lifespan shorter for retarded people? I've never seen(to my memory) an elderly retarded person.

I appreciate any information.

Also, I assume Humble Opinion is the forum for this, not GQ as we aren't truly dealing with facts.
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  #2  
Old 08-16-2007, 12:21 AM
Cat Fight Cat Fight is offline
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Mentally disabled Americans (you're going to get some flak for using 'retarded') do have a shorter life expectancy (about 50-60 years versus the national average of 75), in part because of various physical problems attached to their mental ones (e.g. people with Down syndrome are more likely to have thyroid disease and diabetes), but also because they often lack access to adequate medical care.

The mentally handicapped people I know have all been lucky enough to have living parents who care for them well into their own old age. There are also pretty good facilities and schools in my area, but damn they're expensive. Not quite sure what happens if they have no support system. If they're not outwardly handicapped, I imagine they end up on the street. Otherwise, some sort of gov't-operated home, maybe?
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Old 08-16-2007, 12:45 AM
Suse Suse is offline
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I work for a company that provides supported living services to mentally disabled people. Many such people live in the community. They are provided services according to their needs as determined by a team of people that includes the consumer. The services that are provided can include housekeeping, meals, personal care, etc or can be restricted to transportation and assistance with appointments and shopping. It depends on the level of functioning of the consumer - how independently he/she is capable of living. In some of the homes I oversee, we provide 24/7 services that include total support and supervision; in others, we only provide limited service for a minimal amount of hours a week. (The smallest contracts that I know of are around 3 hours a week.)

Individuals who are more involved behaviorally or medically might live in an ICFMR (Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded). Those facilities usually have 24/7 nursing care available and more behavior support and supervision than can be provided in a private home. I don't have direct experience with an ICFMR but my company has a few in other areas.

Most of the consumers we have are employed at sheltered workshops, which allows them to earn some (usually very little) money. When those consumers reach the age where others are retiring, they are offered the chance to attend a senior program sponsored by the workshop instead of working. I know a charming woman in her 80s who refuses to give up working to go to the senior program, saying that she likes to keep busy and would be too bored. She doesn't earn much, but she's happy.

We do have some consumers who work in the community, and those jobs are usually support jobs such as dishwashing or making salads in a restaurant, carry-out in a grocery store, or janitorial work.

Many of our consumers are middle-aged to elderly and the only consumers I've known who have died have been younger people who died from causes that strike the general population equally. My company, when we are contracted to help the consumer access medical care (in some cases we are not, when there is family involved who prefer to take care of that themselves), requires that our consumers get annual physicals and dental exams, and we also assist with medical care and medication administration as needed by the consumers.

Sorry for the long post; I live this stuff 24/7 (I'm on-call all the time)!
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Old 08-16-2007, 07:22 AM
Nava Nava is online now
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My family are members of ANFAS, the local "association of families and friends of mentally disabled people".

One of the lines of work of this and other Spanish associations of/working with/for disabled people is as-independent-as-possible living arrangements (if the disabled person and his parents are able and willing to live together that's fine... but if he wants to live in a care-managed apartment or on his own, the possibility exists); also taking care of "what will be of him when I'm not here any more". All of those associations provide jobs for their clients: bookbinding, sales of lottery tickets (the ONCE lottery), sewing... And one of the big points is getting people evaluated on what they actually can and can't do, doing your best to drop prejudices off a bridge. ONCE is more focused on physical disability; they can be called to help adapt workplaces for a disabled person, for example.

We're going through an "interesting" situation right now (think Chinese curse): the mother of one of our Downie friends is in the early stages of some sort of dementia; she gets lost in places she's known her whole life, doesn't remember how to read a clock... All her children are worried about it, but getting L to understand it isn't being easy. She's been his strength for 40 years; now she can't any more.
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:37 AM
Phlosphr Phlosphr is offline
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There are two sides to this coin. While some Developedmentally delayed individuals [the proper nomenclature doesn't usually include "retarded" BTW] live a good life it often takes a lot of money for them to live a life that is meaningful to them and their parents. I've worked in state funded group homes and worked in private facilities, the private specialized ones tend to be slightly better but that can depend on level of need, level of experience with the staff and a whole gamut of other things. Many high functioning developedmentally disabled people go ont ot live good lives, some lower functionng ones do not. Unfortunatly the almighty dollar bill has a lot fo do with quailty of life.
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Old 08-16-2007, 09:20 AM
Lunar Saltlick Lunar Saltlick is offline
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Generally, it's not pretty. Unless there's a lot of money in the family, there is usually a lot of stress on the person's aging parents, and then on the person's siblings, and even, as in my case, the person's nephews and nieces. Private or government-supplied homemakers, transportation, etc., helps, but it's not usually enough.

My experience is that it doesn't end well, and it can cause pretty severe cracks in the rest of the family. Whether the person is living independently or in a home of some sort, there's not a lot of happiness involved for anyone.

In situations or places where there are no resources at all (government, family, private), which probably describes over half the world, I can only imagine how bad it is.
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  #7  
Old 08-16-2007, 09:52 AM
BoBettie BoBettie is offline
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It really depends on the area and on how high functioning the individual is. My brother in law is mentally disabled and works and lives in a supervised apartment situation. He works at a sheltered workshop environment and gets paid and his apartment is shared with one other man and 2 social workers. The social workers use it as an office in the daytime and make sure all of the needed chores are done, bills are paid, etc then when he and his roommate get home, they're on their own. They take turns preparing simple meals and things like that.

The community center he's associated with is nothing short of amazing. He goes bowling regularly, goes to all of the local fairs and events, has had several big trips (he's a NASCAR fan and went to a few races with some of the workers), and is generally a very happy man. He is actually coming down to visit us next year. One of his aids will get him to the airport and on a plane and we'll go get him. He's functional enough to fly alone, but not to understand how the ticket works or where the gates are, etc.

So it depends entirely on level of functioning and location. He's lucky enough to live in a very rural town in upstate NY that evidently cares very much for it's disabled population. The facility he lives in is top notch. Not everyone is nearly so fortunate.

I forgot to add: He's now 39 years old, so I can't speak for what happens when he's older than that. There's never been mention of him leaving the facility or anything.

Last edited by BoBettie; 08-16-2007 at 09:53 AM..
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  #8  
Old 08-16-2007, 02:28 PM
Velma Velma is offline
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I have an aunt who is mentally disabled who is almost 60 now. She can hold down a job as a busperson in a nearby restaurant that she is able to walk to. She lived with my grandma until she passed away, now she lives by herself in a small condo. After my grandma passed, the responsibility fell to my mom and her brother to watch over her. I imagine that if for some reason she outlives both my mom and my uncle, the responsibility would fall to one of us kids, but that seems unlikely as she is the oldest of the 3.

Parents with children that have special needs often set up specific trusts or leave details in their wills about how the child should be cared for until the end of their life. Money does come into play, as well as how independent the person is. As others have said, often there are accompanying health issues where the person does not have a normal life expectancy, but not always. My dad is an occupational therapist and does work with group homes of varying quality where many types of handicapped people live when they don't have family that can care for them.

Last edited by Velma; 08-16-2007 at 02:29 PM..
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  #9  
Old 08-16-2007, 02:40 PM
plnnr plnnr is offline
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The term "mentally retarded" is perfectly well accepted here in VA - the name of the state agency is "Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services."

My wife, who is a LPC, worked for nearly 10 years in a hospital for the mentally retarded and brain-injured in South Carolina and I recently asked her this very same question. She responded that provided there wasn't some underlying medical condition, the patients (some of whom had been there since birth) usually lived just as long as people without the same issues. One elderly gentleman she worked with had been brought there as an infant because he was the result of incest. As far as she could tell, there wasn't anything wrong with him at all. This was before the Reagan administration pushed for de-institutionalization, which was a positive in some cases but probably resulted in some people who needed the highly structured environment being pushed into the streets to fend for themselves.
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  #10  
Old 08-16-2007, 07:47 PM
FairyChatMom FairyChatMom is online now
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My mom's sister is 61, but mentally and emotionally, she's a child. She's already lived far longer than anyone expected, what with her bad heart and diabetes and several other conditions. She lives with my mom, and should she outlive her, one of my sisters will take over her care. Unless her health issues become more than a non-medical person can handle, she'll be with family till she dies.
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  #11  
Old 08-16-2007, 08:11 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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My closest friend manages a group home for aging mentally retarded men, one of several in the metro Atlanta area run by an organization called Enable (which also has homes for elderly MR women). On average I'd say the MR's I've known are older in "real age" than their normal abilitied contemporaries for a variety of reasons (they obviously didn't exercise much and often there's a physical component to their condition, and some have just had hard lives). Mostly they have the same health needs as other aging people, though obviously certain diagnoses have more. One of his clients is a 76 year old man who's in near perfect health, while a 57 year old man with Down's Syndrome is by far the oldest in "real age" at the group home (it's very rare for a Down's Syndrome person to make it past 50).

The higher functioning guys are all quite content to happy. I've worked with elderly MR men and women myself in years past in group homes and same story- in fact some were exceptionally happy because they'd lived through the snake-pit years of Mental Health organizations and the group homes were paradise in comparison. One thing I have noticed, though, is that several of the elderly MR have higher sex drives than people of equal age and normal intelligence, both male and female. (We had a 70 something lady at one of the group homes I worked at who was one of the randiest old broads I've ever known, but a total charmer.)
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:12 PM
Hirundo82 Hirundo82 is offline
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Most people with Down Syndrome, the most common form of mental retardation, develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease, usually presenting in their 40's or 50's. This may contribute to why it is unusual to see elderly individuals with mental retardation out and about.
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  #13  
Old 08-16-2007, 08:30 PM
Mona Lisa Simpson Mona Lisa Simpson is offline
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Originally Posted by Hirundo82
Most people with Down Syndrome, the most common form of mental retardation, develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease, usually presenting in their 40's or 50's. This may contribute to why it is unusual to see elderly individuals with mental retardation out and about.

Yes, I was going to add this myself. I have had a number of patients who are mid level functioning, worked in group workshops, lived in group homes etc, who become managability problems as they age and they get early onsett Alzheimers disease starting in their 40s or 50s. Some of them end up in Long term care facilities, some in psychiatric hospitals, some manage a long time in group home settings with very patient and tolerant staff. A lot depends on the involvement of families, etc.

Ten years ago I worked in a group home for clients with developmental disabilities, there were two ladies there of about the same age, but that was where the similarities ended. One had grown up as a very catered to and loved pet in a warm and involved family, who ultimately had A. go to a group home so that the parents could get some rest and so that she would develop some independence. (A was about 45) B had been institutionalized from birth to her late 30s and then ended up in community care when that institution was closed. B. was not very verbal, not sociable, very angry and brooding.

On the other hand, I still see a woman I have known for over 30 years who went to our church around town. She has some form of developmental and intellectual disability, and is a "little person" but she goes everywhere in town on the busand participates in everything, despite being unable to read. Ive known who she is since I was a very young girl and I still occasionally see her out and about. She would have to be at least in her 70's now, and the main thing is I am amazed that even in the 1970s for someone like her to live in the community was a very uncommon. Yet there she is.
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Old 08-16-2007, 10:01 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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As a public librarian, I see a lot of people who don't have anything to do all day but hang out at the liberry. Some of our regular patrons are mentally handicapped people who do not work. I know at least a few of them live in group homes or similar institutions and come and go freely (specifically there's one lady who I know has a bus pass) but either can't or don't work. Additionally, I've seen adults with mental disabilities being taken on "trips" to the library with counselors or caretakers of some sort; I spent a good hour once helping a man on one of these outings type his resume. His address was some sort of institution and he was seeking work. I've also known adults who live at home with parents or other caregivers, of course.

In other words, it depends.

ETA - one of my favorite Onion articles:Developmentally Disabled Burger King Employee Only Competent Worker .

Last edited by Zsofia; 08-16-2007 at 10:04 PM..
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  #15  
Old 08-16-2007, 10:26 PM
Klaatu Klaatu is offline
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At the air base where I work, lots of older mentally disabled people are employed as janitorial staff. I assume they work for a gov contractor. They work all over the base, including secured facilities.

I am curious if this is a nationwide thing on federal installations.
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  #16  
Old 08-16-2007, 10:55 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnnr
The term "mentally retarded" is perfectly well accepted here in VA - the name of the state agency is "Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services."
Thanks for pointing that out. I'm a teacher in Michigan, and mentally retarded is also acceptable. It does pack a bit of a "punch" that disabled may not, but it isn't rude.

Words like "retard" or "idiot" are considered rude, but not mentally retarded.

I should hope Dopers are above "giving me flak" for using a term other than mentally disabled.

Thanks for the information, everyone! I used to live in China and often wondered what happened to mentally retarded people there in their old age, since the system is not as developed.
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  #17  
Old 08-16-2007, 11:42 PM
FriarTed FriarTed is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia
That article struck me as too close to reality.
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  #18  
Old 08-17-2007, 03:44 AM
OtakuLoki OtakuLoki is offline
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My understanding is that all counties in NY are required to fund their local Arcs. The name has changed recently. When I first started going to local Arcs it was an acronym, using rather outdated terminology. The goal of the various Arcs I've seen was to place those consumers who were high functioning enough with real jobs in the mainstream world. And, for those who couldn't work in those environments provide a place where they could go and do something for some pay.

Typical jobs I saw the Arc members doing included preparing rag bags from donated clothing, going through salvage lots to see what could be sold to vendors, and occaisionally some crafts work. One of the businesses that the local Arc runs that I know of is a flower shop, but that wasn't something I saw since it isn't run out of the main Arc facility I went to.
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Old 08-17-2007, 09:57 AM
Renob Renob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaatu
At the air base where I work, lots of older mentally disabled people are employed as janitorial staff. I assume they work for a gov contractor. They work all over the base, including secured facilities.

I am curious if this is a nationwide thing on federal installations.
There is a federal procurement program (http://www.abilityone.gov/jwod/index.html) that funnels work to nonprofits that employ people with disabilities. Basically, the rationale is that if the federal government needs to buy something, it should try and buy from organizations that employ people with disabilities, since it might take some of the pressurer off other government programs that are designed to support people with disabilities. It's a relatively small procurement program, but a lot of their contracts deal with janitorial and mess hall work.
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Old 08-17-2007, 02:06 PM
Montgomery Burns Montgomery Burns is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaatu
At the air base where I work, lots of older mentally disabled people are employed as janitorial staff. I assume they work for a gov contractor. They work all over the base, including secured facilities.

I am curious if this is a nationwide thing on federal installations.
I work with a group in a federal building on occasion and the people in the cleaning staff that come in at 4:00 every day are mentally disabled, although they seem to be fairly high functioning.
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  #21  
Old 08-17-2007, 02:21 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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My friend's brother is mentally retarded and has lived in some sort of home for about ten years now (he's in his late 40s). His father is dead and his mother cannot care for him anymore. He has had jobs in the past and I assume he still does. A bus would pick them up from the home and take them to a factory where they would stick stickers on boxes. It gives them a sense of responsibility and pride. Arrangements were made for his financial needs when his dad died. He enjoys his life and believes himself to be a functional part of the adult world (which, on a much smaller scale, he is). He is about 5 years old, mentally.
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  #22  
Old 08-17-2007, 02:46 PM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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I have mentally retarded clients as old as 94. Many in the 50 - 70 year bracket, as well. However mental retardation is both medically, and socially associated with other factors that limit the lifespan of people with disabilities. In addition, the infirmities of aging are additions to the barriers of a group which already finds it difficult to enjoy the same level of social interactions that normal people do. It's harder to get around as much, after you start getting old. When it was already hard, it can mean the difference between going to work, or going to a sheltered environment where, among other things, you don't get exposed to the general public as often.

The close association between mental retardation and other limiting medical issues also reduce the frequency of social contacts. Then, when you are in your sixties, your parents are in their nineties, and they can't get you out all that often. Thirty years ago, we used to take our clients out into the community a lot more frequently than we do now, in my particular institutional care facility. The reasons are many, and varied. Money is a big one.

Tris
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  #23  
Old 08-17-2007, 11:34 PM
MissGypsy MissGypsy is offline
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My brother-in-law is mentally ill, and he now lives in a group home. He used to live in government subsidized housing, but was kicked out because of some violation. He’s had part-time jobs here and there over the years, like picking up trash in fast-food parking lots. Now he’s on full disability, in a halfway house.

My son is developmentally disabled, and I don’t know what will happen to him. He can apply for disability when he’s 17, but if he’s able, I hope he can graduate high school and get a job and live independently. Otherwise, I guess he’ll live with me until I die. Then he’ll probably end up in some group home, unless one of his younger brothers can care for him.

There was a program that I saw a few months ago about autistic children, and someone asked the parent of an autistic child a similar question… like, “What do you do when your autistic child is grown and you’re old?” The answer from the parent was, “You have to live forever.” It’s true. My mother’s friend is still caring for a 53-year-old son with Down’s syndrome, and that lady is 80-something. Parents of disabled children just aren’t allowed to die, for fear of what will happen to their child.

Some group homes are excellent, and some are horrid. It can be a learning experience for a disabled person to gain some independence, or it can be an absolute rat-hole. Private facilities are exorbitantly expensive, and government-funded ones are hit-and-miss on the quality of care.
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  #24  
Old 08-18-2007, 01:43 AM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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About MRs in the work-force: the center where I worked (they owned a "school" and several group homes) contracted with various companies for unskilled highly repetitive work; one of their contracts was with a large dairy who had them put the labels on milk jugs, for example, or an independent weekly newspaper who had them put the paper into the plastic tube bags they were delivered in. In addition to giving the students something to occupy their time and make a little money (which for some of the poorer families actually helped out), many studies have shown that the retarded perform jobs like this MUCH better than people who fall into the average intelligence scale as the job doesn't bore them senseless.
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Old 08-18-2007, 03:04 AM
Autolycus Autolycus is offline
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What happens? They get old just like everyone else.
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Old 08-18-2007, 07:56 AM
Napier Napier is offline
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>Words like "retard" or "idiot" are considered rude, but not mentally retarded.... I should hope Dopers are above "giving me flak" for using a term other than mentally disabled.

A good sentiment, and the Dopers seem to be.

But it highlights an interesting point that has been floating through much of the discussion. The term to describe people whose mental functioning failed to reach a normal level has evolved over the centuries, from "fool" and "idiot" and "imbecile" to "retarded" and "mentally disabled". My college roomate studied working with such children. At this point, the acceptable term was "exceptional", at least in her experience. There was an emphasis on the idea that they weren't worse than normal, just different.

IMHO the truth is that a bad situation is getting labeled so as to disguise it, and thoughtless people keep turning the labels into derogatory terms - which is more honest in a way than the labeling was at first. Whenever my roomate referred to "exceptional children", for a moment I would picture very advanced and capable and prodigal children, then I'd remember that this was code for, well, you know...

So, I remember being taught that it was rude to call somebody like this an "imbecile", and that the proper term was "retarded". Which was very polite, because "retard" used to mean to slow down or hold back, like the brake retarders that trucks use decending hills. And now I have to remember that "retarded" has become rude, at least some places, and the once perfectly good word "retard" has become loaded, and if I use "exceptional" people are unlikely to know what I mean, and I have to keep track of what the right euphamism is today.

What to do? It seems to me some kind of loving approach is best, appreciating that these people have a genuine and big deficit, but that it is only a deficit, and we all have various plusses and minuses to deal with. And it also seems like the idea that stupidity is still fair game to tease and deplore people for must be wrong. "Here's your sign" isn't really funny. The idea that you can berate somebody for having an IQ of 84, but have to be solicitous if it's only 74, just doesn't make sense. Smart people no more deserve extra credit and appreciation and respect than do very tall people or people with detached ear lobes, do they?
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Old 08-18-2007, 12:35 PM
bump bump is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro
About MRs in the work-force: the center where I worked (they owned a "school" and several group homes) contracted with various companies for unskilled highly repetitive work; one of their contracts was with a large dairy who had them put the labels on milk jugs, for example, or an independent weekly newspaper who had them put the paper into the plastic tube bags they were delivered in. In addition to giving the students something to occupy their time and make a little money (which for some of the poorer families actually helped out), many studies have shown that the retarded perform jobs like this MUCH better than people who fall into the average intelligence scale as the job doesn't bore them senseless.

I seem to remember, but can't find a cite, that there was some kind of major project, like the Apollo program or Manhattan project, or the making of some big-ass telescope or something, and some of the most critical, yet most repetitive tasks were done by mentally retarded workers, since they were extremely good at it, and extremely consistent, while more normal workers tended to get bored and sloppy.
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Old 08-18-2007, 01:48 PM
Suse Suse is offline
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Just thought of this story: http://www.columbusdispatch.com/disp...809-A1-04.html
This is an example of what sheltered workshops can do.
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  #29  
Old 08-18-2007, 04:46 PM
lorene lorene is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro
In addition to giving the students something to occupy their time and make a little money (which for some of the poorer families actually helped out), many studies have shown that the retarded perform jobs like this MUCH better than people who fall into the average intelligence scale as the job doesn't bore them senseless.
I completely understand the sentiment behind what you are saying, but it does bear mentioning that some Developmentally Disabled people truly are bored senseless by this type of repetitive task as well. Just like non-disabled people, there's a wide range of skills, abilities, and interests among those who have developmental disabilities.

There is a big push in Massachusetts to close all the sheltered workshops and to find community-based work for everyone, and there is one state in New England (I want to say Vermont, but I will have to dig up a cite and get back to you on that) which has already done just that. Real work, at real wages, among non-disabled peers is the goal. It's been a big source of contention, with one side saying, "Well, what about people who can't work?" and others saying, "Everyone can work with the proper job match and the proper supports" and a lot of folks falling in the middle of the spectrum.

A lot of the answer to "what happens to these people when they age?" has to do with employment. Have folks been kept at poverty conditions, or are they able to earn better money? Do they have activities they find meaningful, that they themselves have chosen, or are they stuck going for van rides with their peers in the day program because they don't even know there are other choices? (And, yeah, I freely acknowledge that there are people who would choose the van ride even once they are informed of and fully comprehend the range of choices available to them. Are they fully included in the community, or are they kept separate from non-disabled people?

And of course, this all comes down to money. A lot of these ideas are of limited potential because programs don't have the money to provide a wide range of supports, nor do they have enough money to pay for enough quality staffing. At least where I am, there may some some stellar, dedicated staff with great values and commitment, but if there's only one of them for every 10 clients...well, you're riding around in the van for another day, just to keep busy. Or, you have a client who could work in the community, but not enough staff availability to provide a job coach, so they have to turn down the job.

Yup, like Suse, this is my field and I tend to go on about it.
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  #30  
Old 08-18-2007, 05:22 PM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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In the last thirty years, in almost every case my 150 clients prefer going to work, to not going to work. I wish my coworkers had a similar attitude.

One day, I was very unsuccessfully trying to redirect one of my clients from getting up from his work assignment to straighten out the work materials in the storage area. It was open because I was in there straightening up, a very boring, and repetitive task.

After about seven or eight attempts my subordinate said, "Why don't you just let him straighten up in there?"

"Yeah," I replied, I suppose it just isn't worth the effort keeping him on task until the distraction is taken care of."

She laughed, and said, "No, that's not it, he just does it so much better than you do."

She was right. I knew it had to be done. He wanted it done, and really cared how it was done. It wasn't drudgery for him.

Tris
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Old 08-18-2007, 06:08 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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To add to what Napier said, let me point out that it is the condition itself that has the negative connotations (and how could that be helped) and whatever euphemistic word or phrase you use to describe it will inevitably ge colored with that connotation. I have seen, for example, with physically handicapped, the evolution lame --> crippled --> handicapped --> challenged and now whatever nom de jour they are currently using. Physically handicapped people aren't bad, but their condition is.
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  #32  
Old 08-18-2007, 07:55 PM
OtakuLoki OtakuLoki is offline
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Some comments on stupidity and mocking it. And thoughts on the workshops mentioned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier
And it also seems like the idea that stupidity is still fair game to tease and deplore people for must be wrong. "Here's your sign" isn't really funny. The idea that you can berate somebody for having an IQ of 84, but have to be solicitous if it's only 74, just doesn't make sense. Smart people no more deserve extra credit and appreciation and respect than do very tall people or people with detached ear lobes, do they?
A bit of a hijack, here - I'll admit I'm a fan of the Darwin Awards site, and what you've said has me thinking. I'm not likely to change my willingness to mock people who do stupid actions. But I do have my own standards about it.

What it comes down to, I think, is that you're conflating several different kinds of stupidity.

First off, with Developmentally Delayed persons (or whatever term you prefer) the stupidity is a matter of a lack of ability, and mocking someone for such a lack is about as crass as mocking them for their height, hair color, or the shape of their nose. I don't deny that it happens, but it's always something I view as crude, and indefensible on any humane scale.

Then there's simple ignorance, where someone is acting in the absense of knowledge that would indicate that their action is not the best idea in the world. This can be either a legitimate criticism or an over-the-top ragfest. It depends upon the situation, and has to be judged subjectively. And it's not always the consequences that establish the line, but whether there should have been a reasonable expectation that the person could have known what they've shown themselves to be ignorant of. For example, a generic HS graduate passing on the Mars Closest Approach email from a few years ago (or even this year - again!) can be excused for not looking too closely at the facts and figures involved. An astronomer who did the same thing is being incredibly stupid, however - because, as a condition of their position, they should already know that it's bunk.

Finally there are those people who do actions without considering the consequences - that should have been able to predict, without any particular difficulty. This is the kind of stupidity that had two idiot girls on probation for underaged drinking taking pictures of themselves drinking out of beer cans/bottles at college, then posting them to MySpace, with the caption "F*ck you, Judge!" and naming the judge who ordered them to parole. Or other examples of Darwin grade stupidity.

That last kind of stupidity is not a matter of lack of capability - by all accounts the girls in the example were considered very bright. It's something else. I'd say, at the very least, they've shown that they never had to consider consequences of thier actions before. I have other thoughts that go beyond that, but won't get into here. Whatever the reasons for their actions, I have no qualms about mocking that kind of act, because by any reasonable standard the people involved should have known better. Willful ignorance or willful stupidity are both dangerous. I really don't see the same level of crassness involved with mocking those who act without thinking for their stupidity that I see for mocking someone who cannot perform that same kind of cognition.

It's been a hell of a long time since I've heard the song, "Here's Your Sign," and I know that the artist has expanded it far beyond the orginal song, and I won't be surprised to hear that it mocks those who lack the ability to recognize the actions that they're being mocked for as being stupid. But the only example I can recall from it is one situation which I have to admit seems a legitimate comment: given the relative hazard that shark bite represents, even among that fraction of the population that is at most risk - surfers and divers - the risks associated with testing a shark-proof suit seem to be far in excess of the potential good that such work might be able to do, if it comes to fruition. It's not a comment on someone's inherent ability, I don't think, but their judgement.




On a completely different topic:


Regarding the work that many of these workshops do, how many other Dopers have the unsettling feeling that we're talking about a lot of niche jobs where the companies using the service can't afford the costs to automate their operations?

Considering just two examples brought up in the thread: putting labels on milk bottles; and stuffing newspaper into delivery bags; the impression I have is that for any but the most marginal of operations it would seem that buying or leasing a machine to do the same work would be cheaper, over the long run. I'm sure for one or two job cycles, of course, using the workshops is cheaper, but as a continuing business expense, I just can't imagine that the workshop can economically match the cost savings that automation would have over the expected life-time of the automation equipment.

That doesn't mean that I don't think that the workshops aren't providing a valuable service for all those involved. Just that I wonder how small the niche they're serving might be.

Or to put it a different way, what kind of cycle do the workshops have, with getting new clients then losing them as the new client either goes out of business or gets big enough to automate?
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  #33  
Old 08-18-2007, 09:56 PM
ladybug ladybug is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth
Thanks for pointing that out. I'm a teacher in Michigan, and mentally retarded is also acceptable. It does pack a bit of a "punch" that disabled may not, but it isn't rude.

Words like "retard" or "idiot" are considered rude, but not mentally retarded.

I should hope Dopers are above "giving me flak" for using a term other than mentally disabled.
Mahaloth is correct. My coworkers and I write publications addressing various aspects of special education law, and we use the phrase "mental retardation." We do, however, use the person-first format (e.g., "child with mental retardation" as opposed to "mentally retarded child.") The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also uses the term "mental retardation."

There's actually some debate about the continued use of "mental retardation." A group in California is seeking to eliminate the phrase from its special education regulations and replace it with a term such as "cognitive impairment" or "intellectual disability." Eighteen other states have supposedly removed the term from their special education regs.

Getting back to the OP, I recently had a discussion with my mother about who would care for my sister, who has autism, after my parents are gone. It was very emotional for both of us. Mom insists that my sister needs to stay in the family home (individuals with autism typically require routine and constancy, and we both believe that my sister would wither and die in a group home). She wants someone in the family to live with my sister, but she feels guilty that I'd have to give up my own life to take care of her. We still haven't worked things out.

Last edited by ladybug; 08-18-2007 at 09:58 PM.. Reason: Fixed punctuation.
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  #34  
Old 08-18-2007, 10:55 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FriarTed
That article struck me as too close to reality.
Many Onion articles often do.
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  #35  
Old 08-19-2007, 08:11 AM
Napier Napier is offline
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OtakuLoki, I enjoyed your thoughts. I keep finding it harder and less fun to mock people, though there's still certainly some ease and fun in it.

It's almost impossible to think of a situation where somebody's actions aren't some kind of product of what life gave them. We debate whether it's nature or nurture that makes a person a certain way - notice we're not even setting aside a share for free will? that we're deciding how to distribute credit between just two categories that the person had no choice about? Unless, of course, you want to consider that part of "nurture" is the environment the person helps shape for himself. But I think that's just setting the question off a round.

But then what is mocking for, anyway? We're very social animals, and we use humor and mocking and the grapevine and other old, old means to provide social influence on each other and to find it for ourselves. I think mocking people is a good idea when the subject is something that social disapproval can change, and that probably a good starting point is just letting our evolved tendencies take care of the choice. However, we could do better if we could figure out where our mocking will be useful. Probably the college girls could integrate its results into growing up as more useful members of society.

>the risks associated with testing a shark-proof suit seem to be far in excess of the potential good that such work might be able to do
I can't figure out if you agree with this statement or disagree with it, or see it as debatable. Are you stating, or quoting? FWIW I think generally testing dangerous useful things is well worth the risk, depending of course on the details of the risk and utility and the way the testing is conducted. Want to clarify?
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  #36  
Old 08-19-2007, 04:34 PM
OtakuLoki OtakuLoki is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier
>the risks associated with testing a shark-proof suit seem to be far in excess of the potential good that such work might be able to do
I can't figure out if you agree with this statement or disagree with it, or see it as debatable. Are you stating, or quoting? FWIW I think generally testing dangerous useful things is well worth the risk, depending of course on the details of the risk and utility and the way the testing is conducted. Want to clarify?


I'll be back later this evening to discuss the more substantive part of your post, Napier, but I have the time, now to answer this.

Without taking the time for a quick check, my impression is that every time a shark attack becomes big news the story usually includes the fact that there's some absurdly small number of people who suffer from shark attacks annually. I think it's on the order of 10 or 20 annually. Worldwide.

Now, given that low rate of risk - 10 or 20 attacks, for sake of argument - lets assume that there's even 100 attacks annually - out of a population of 7 billion, the risk rate is astronomically low. Even if one then reduces the risk to only those people who swim in ocean waters, surf, or dive - it's still 100 attacks out of several tens of millions of people annually. Still what I'd consider a very, very small risk.

Compare that with my estimate of the probable error rate for making the shark-proof suit: Being generous, for the first several iterations of the suit I think it's reasonable to assume that a one in one hundred chance of catastrophic failure is not unreasonable - that is the suit will not provide any measurable defense against shark bite, at least for the first several designs - the person testing the suit is trying to get bitten with something that's got a pretty high chance of failure, compared to the risks that he's trying to avert.

Finally, even if a shark-proof suit is developed, I don't think it's going to have any practical effect to protect people at risk of shark attack - for the most part the accounts I've read of shark attacks come under two categories: Either the supposed victim was attacked after provoking the shark (usually as the result of drunken antics); or their first indication that there was a risk was when they were attacked, as when that young competetive surfer was attacked a few years ago.

In either general case, I don't think that many general bathers, surfers, nor divers are going to want to use an armor that protects against a million to one risk. Ergo, even if the guy developes a shark-proof suit, no one's going to use it. (Well, okay there will be a few thrill seekers who feel that a shark cage is too far from the action to view a feeding frenzy.) It's just not a technology that I expect will have much use. Nor will it do anything to reduce the injuries from shark attacks in the general public.

i.e. it seems to me to be a rather foolish (if technically challenging) hobby. If there were no risk to the guy testing the suit, it wouldn't twig my stupid meter - but I don't think that it can be claimed to be risk-free testing. AIUI, the tests are done by encouraging a live shark to bite the guy wearing the suit. Which given the relatively high failure rate I expect (that 1 in 100 failure rate for the first iterations is deliberately chosen to be optimistic, remember.) seems to be an exercise in wanting to get injured by a shark. Perhaps badly.
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  #37  
Old 08-19-2007, 08:15 PM
OtakuLoki OtakuLoki is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier
It's almost impossible to think of a situation where somebody's actions aren't some kind of product of what life gave them. We debate whether it's nature or nurture that makes a person a certain way - notice we're not even setting aside a share for free will? that we're deciding how to distribute credit between just two categories that the person had no choice about? Unless, of course, you want to consider that part of "nurture" is the environment the person helps shape for himself. But I think that's just setting the question off a round.

But then what is mocking for, anyway? We're very social animals, and we use humor and mocking and the grapevine and other old, old means to provide social influence on each other and to find it for ourselves. I think mocking people is a good idea when the subject is something that social disapproval can change, and that probably a good starting point is just letting our evolved tendencies take care of the choice. However, we could do better if we could figure out where our mocking will be useful. Probably the college girls could integrate its results into growing up as more useful members of society.
I'm back, with the substantive response I promised earlier, Napier.

I agree that 'nurture' aspects can affect how people prejudge their own actions. As I said earlier about the teens, it seemed likely that they'd never been held accountable for the likely consequences of their actions before, and so they were naive in their estimate of the wisdom of their actions. But, having said that, such 'nurturing' failures could have been overcome, had they thought about the reality of what they were doing.

I will disagree, however, that there are stupid acts that people do that are solely the result of nature and nurture combined. I feel rather strongly that free will does exist. Sometimes, I'll admit, it only seems to manifest in the freedom to be stupid, but it does exist. The most common example of a common stupid behavior that I think most people have performed is trying to catch a hot pan, or sharp knife, when it's in the process of falling.

Now, I'll grant that part of the way such things happen is that there is a very powerful time-sensitive element to the event: The person has only a fraction of a second to choose his or her response. And there's a powerful impulse to try to catch anything before it falls. So there is a lot of nature pushing behind that stupidity. But I don't think that most people will be able to say that they'd never heard, seen, or even experienced that such an impulse is more likely to cause than prevent injury.

It's a universal impulse that most people recognize, if asked and allowed the time to formulate a reasoned response, as being very stupid. And we still do it. Sometimes impulse has a person doing things that just aren't very bright. And it's not usually a matter of ability, or lack of knowledge - just for whatever reason the probably consequences aren't considered. Sometimes it's very understandable, as with the dropping knife example I gave. Sometimes it's just what I'd call a brain fart, like the old joke about the guy with a burned ear because he was ironing his shirt when the phone rang, and so he answered the iron.

I think that joke is one that's a very useful illustration of the difference between what is acceptable to mock, as well as what's funny. The situation I just described probably only elicted a wince from you, in sympathy with the poor guy. But that's not the joke.

The joke goes:
Joe comes into work with bandages on both his ears. His coworker, Jeff, asks what happened.
"I was ironing my shirt last night, when the phone rang. And, well, I ended up answering the iron."
Jeff thinks about this for a minute. "Ouch. That sucks. But what happened to your other ear?"
"The bastard called back!"
It's the repetition of the stupid act after the actor has experienced that it's stupid that makes the joke work. In short, the mocking is happening not because the original situation was unreasonable, but because the repetition was.

For that matter, have you had any industrial safety training? IMNSHO, a vast majority of incident reports can be distilled down to one, common, topic sentence: "An operator, who should have known better, did something really stupid, and bad things happened."

The mocking aspect we've been talking will vary, depending on who might be relating the incident: The Darwin Awards emphasize it; whereas the NTSB will bend over backwards to avoid letting any obvious humor into their reports. (If you don't believe me consider the NTSB reports associated with these two fatal crashes described on the Darwin Awards site. Mile-High Club Failure, and 4-1-0 Club. (I'd have linked the NTSB reports, if I could have, but my browser is reporting that the NTSB site is down at the moment.)

Now, I grant that the Darwin site isn't exactly what I'd consider a training tool for industrial safety, but this site is. And it's focus is usually mocking poor decisions.

So, I think that the use of mockery to increase the social costs for stupid and reckless behaviors has a purpose, still.

But I think it's also vital to make sure that the mockery happens after one has been assured that the person being mocked was:
  • mentally competent at the time of the incident
  • Expected to be able to predict probable outcomes from their actions
  • Expected to recognize, if they thought about it, the hazardous nature of said probable outcomes
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  #38  
Old 08-19-2007, 11:33 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier

But it highlights an interesting point that has been floating through much of the discussion. The term to describe people whose mental functioning failed to reach a normal level has evolved over the centuries, from "fool" and "idiot" and "imbecile" to "retarded" and "mentally disabled". My college roomate studied working with such children. At this point, the acceptable term was "exceptional", at least in her experience. There was an emphasis on the idea that they weren't worse than normal, just different.
Right.

As George Carlin said about handicapped people, "These people have been so bulshitted by society, they believe that if you change the name, you can change the condition. Not so!"
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  #39  
Old 08-20-2007, 08:13 AM
Lunar Saltlick Lunar Saltlick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinastasia
Many Onion articles often do.
Slate links to three new Onion articles every day, and I'll usually click on those links. Often, I forget that I'm at the Onion, and I think I'm reading a Slate article. At some point, I find myself saying, "Wait a minute, which site am I at?"

As to the OP, I haven't participated much in this thread because it's just too painful. All I can add is, whatever terminology you want use, if you have a developmentally challenged person in your family, make sure somebody else in the family becomes a millionaire.
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  #40  
Old 08-21-2007, 09:58 AM
Shirley Ujest Shirley Ujest is offline
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We have a shirt tale relative that is mentally challenged.


Paul's first caretaker after his parents died was his brother. When his brother died, he went to my aunt and uncle with occaisional bounces to my uncle's mother.
When she died, he bounced back to my aunt.

Paul is in his 80's now and in an old folks home for regular people. My aunt agreed to take on the responsiblity for paul when he was 40ish and she had 6 young children at home because the experts all said that People Like Him usually died in their 40's and 50's.

He will outlive everyone because he has no health problems or stress in life.
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  #41  
Old 08-21-2007, 10:05 AM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is offline
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A tangentially related, but interesting, article about Arthur Miller's son.
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