Best Buddies
Ask Emerson Interactive Moment Conversation Starters Spotlight Archive

Ask Emerson
All of your e-Buddies questions answered here!

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." In the spirit of those inspiring words, Ask Emerson is a feature designed to help you be the best friend you can be. Each month, we will select a question or two for response. Send your questions to

Dear Emerson,

I'm enjoying getting to know my e-Buddy, but I'm not sure how to describe the disability he has. Is it correct to say mentally retarded?


Dear Wondering,

That's an interesting question. The term "mental retardation" is a specific clinical diagnosis, which clearly defines one type of developmental disability. Currently, there is a debate among experts in the field, special education teachers, family members, and persons with mental retardation about the use of the term. Some say the term is derogatory, and a committee has been formed to examine the issue further. Since the term "mental retardation" is medically accurate, e-Buddies continues to use it, until a decision is made on whether to institute a new term.

At e-Buddies, we always use "people first" language. This means instead of saying "Susie is retarded", we say, "Susie is a person with mental retardation", or "Susie has a cognitive disability." In this way, we emphasize the person, not the disability.

If you'd like to learn more about the developmental disability of mental retardation, visit the e-Buddies website at /informed/mr.html.

Signing off,


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