Story of Intellectual Disability: An Evolution of Meaning, Understanding, and Public Perception

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Michael L Wehmeyer

Story of Intellectual Disability
304 pages
ISBN: 9781557669872

Accessible, engaging, and filled with contributions by the country's most celebrated disability experts, this fascinating volume skilfully captures how intellectual disability has been understood from prehistoric times to present. Readers will discover how different societies have responded to people with disability throughout history, how life has changed for people with intellectual disability and their families over the centuries, and how key historical figures and events sparked social change and shaped our modern understanding of intellectual disability. Enhanced with remarkable images and illustrations, including exclusive photos from the editor's private collection of cultural artefacts, this informal history is a must-read for anyone devoted to improving the lives of people with intellectual disability.

Top disability experts explore:

  • Early ideas about the causes of intellectual disability
  • Evolution of the concept of intellectual disability
  • The role of religion in the ancient world's understanding of disability
  • Changing approaches to education and intervention
  • The rise and fall of the institution system
  • Depictions of intellectual disability in film, literature, and art
  • State-sanctioned sterilisation programs in the twentieth century
  • The self-advocacy movement
  • The emergence and impact of parent associations, support groups, and training programs
  • How and why terminology changed throughout the years
  • and more

Table of Contents

About the Editor

About the Contributor


  1. Introduction to the Intellectual Disability Construct - Robert L. Schalock
  2. At the Dawn of Civilization: Intellectual Disability in Prehistory and Ancient Times (9000 BCE to 500 CE) - Ellis M. Craig
  3. Poverty and the Emergence of Charity: Intellectual Disability in the Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE) - Parnel Wickham
  4. Chapter 4 Idiocy and Early Modern Law: Intellectual Disability in Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1799 CE) - Parnel Wickham
  5. The Development of Systems of Supports: Intellectual Disability in Middle Modern Times (1800 CE to 1899 CE) - Philip Ferguson
  6. In Search of a Science: Intellectual Disability in Late Modern Times (1900 to 1930) - J. David Smith, Steven Noll, and Michael L. Wehmeyer
  7. Isolation, Enlargement, and Economization: Intellectual Disability in Late Modern Times (1930 CE to 1950 CE) - Michael L. Wehmeyer, Steven Noll, and J. David Smith
  8. The Parent Movement: Late Modern Times (1950 CE to 1980 CE) - Robert L. Schalock and Michael L. Wehmeyer
  9. The Self-Advocacy Movement: Late Modern Times (1980 CE to Present) - Dianne Ferguson, Philip Ferguson, and Michael L. Wehmeyer