History of Developmental Services

The language used during the late 1800s and early 1900s categorized individuals based on their presumed degree of disability. Many of the terms commonly used came from the eugenics movement, a scientific and moral ideology that was prevalent throughout the world at that time.

"Feeble-minded" was sometimes used as a general term to describe a person with a developmental disability. Most of the time, however, "feeble-minded" meant a person with a very mild intellectual impairment - individuals who today would not be considered to have a developmental disability.

People with increasingly severe developmental disabilities were classified as "morons", "imbeciles", and "idiots". The word "idiot" referred to people with the most severe intellectual impairments.

Other terms commonly used at the time were "mentally defective" and "subnormals". "High grades" and "low grades" were used to denote a person's ability.

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The words we used: