Siblings of Retarded Children

siblings of retarded children

Brothers and Sisters of Retarded Children: an Exploratory Study

Submitter: I was searching the library’s catalogue yesterday for potential preschool storytime books using the subject heading “siblings” and stumbled upon this book. I was dumbfounded that a title like this still existed in our current collection and immediately recommended it for weeding.

Holly: Really?  More books about “retarded” children?  Seriously, folks, type the word “retarded” into your catalogs as a title keyword and then GO WEED THEM OFF YOUR SHELVES!   Then, go find some new books with current terminology to put on your shelves.  If there aren’t any, sacrifice having books on the subject until there are some and rely on articles and web sites in the meantime.




  1. Fine job with the flake+hole/gouge in the contact paper!

    “They’re r—t—d—d because some evil patron wasn’t paying attention and made them that way with a pencil, so don’t bring pencils into the library and it wont happen again!”

    Also, this appears to be a scholarly work, how did it turn up in preschool materials?

  2. Mental Retardation is current Psychiatric (DSM-IV) terminology. In the proposed DSM-5 (due out in 2012), the diagnostic criteria are tweaked a bit and the diagnosis is renamed intellectual disability.

  3. It probably turned up because subject headings can net both adult and juvenile books…I’ve run into that several times.

  4. @Debora: That’s partially because the DSM is only changed very rarely. I think this will be 5 times (or 6 if you count the “Revision”) in 50+ years. The term has had plenty of time to get a very negative connotation (even when I was in school, I recall it being a recess taunt). Since this is a scholarly publication it can probably get away with it. For things like preschool materials (what the submitter was after) it would be harder to justify.

  5. Regardless of where you stand on use of the word, it’s definitely a “this book is probably outdated” cue. Nothing remotely current that is meant for non-technical readers will have it in the title…it’s marketing kryptonite.

  6. When I was growing up, we never called my sister retarded. She’s developmentally disabled. Didn’t stop kids from calling me ‘retard’s sister’.

    That said, me circa 8 years old would have probably been quite saddened to see this book title.

  7. Regardless of whether the word “retarded” is still appropriate, the book was published in 1972! Definitely not appropriate for a public library collection.

  8. I love this site. I was looking at the books thinking we could not have any titles this bad. Sadly, we had more than one I carried 6 books away from our shelves for weeding. Thank you awful library books you are enlightening.

  9. I looked on my library system (I’m just a user, I don’t work for the library) and the only result for “retarded” was:

    “Have You Tried-? A Handbook Of Activities And Services For The Profoundly Retarded David Norris”

    from 1988.

    I bet that information on services is very relevant 22 years on.

  10. So if the author okay’d retitling the text to Brothers and Sisters of Challenged Children, you’d keep this one? “Retarded” was the clinical term used at the time. The information inside still might be good and valid.

  11. As one of six kids myself, I suspect all siblings think they are siblings of retarded children. (Political correctness does not apply to sibling rivalry.) But due to the age of this book and the current political incorrectness of this title, I would definitely weed it from a public library collection.

  12. @Tony – A lot of the information is out of date and I’m sure lots of new things have been discovered. Plus terminology has changed. My mom used to call kids with Downs Syndrome “mongoloids” for instance. When she was young, that was the proper term. People don’t use it now.

  13. Tony–even if the title was changed, child development and child psychology has come a long way since 1972. This books shouldn’t just be weeded because of an offensive word; that would make us censors. But when a term is this out-of-date, it’s a good indication that the information within is out of date, too. I looked through a similar book in my library, hoping maybe it’d have some useful information for my older son (my younger son is autistic). It mainly gave advise on how to cope with knowing that a sibling would be institutionalised. More current books include information on resentment, fear, teasing, and actually living with the sibling.

    I went through our catalog after seeing this and was mortified at the 73 books we had in religion, social sciences, parenting, law, and education sections–not just because they had the word retarded, but because these books were all published in the 70’s, before IDEA, ADA, and all the other advances that have happened since before I was born.

  14. This sort of search makes a good random tool for checking your weeding processes were you search for outdated materials. I’m feeling pretty good about our collection developers for passing the test of their weeding processes. A general keyword search of our catalog yeilded 14 items with the word ‘ retarded’ in the record. None was older than 1993 and most were juvenile fiction where the word appeared in the summary note. The word appeared in the content notes in the two adult non-fiction book records. This is a limited tool but interesting to apply.

  15. Gee, “retarded” has a negative connotation? Well, “retarded” is a synonym for “mentally challenged”, which itself replaced “mentally handicapped”, because heaven forbid we use “handicapped” to imply anything negative. Guess what, folks? All those words imply the same thing in this context: that a person’s brain is not wired correctly. And where’s the positive implication in that? There isn’t any. A rose by any other name is still a rose. And someone unfortunate enough to be born with or suffer brain damage through an accident is still retarded, handicapped and challenged.

    If a bunch of kids gathered together and taunted a lone child with “Mentally challenged! Mentally challenged!” it would still mean “Retard! Retard!”. Either would be just as wrong, and either would be analogous. A lack of mental or physical progress up to and including the norm is retarded progress no matter how many pairs of rose-tinted sunglasses you try on.

    C’mon, people. A little common sense, for the sake of the children. Changing the words used doesn’t change the meaning. And this applies to all the other politically correct nonsense you can think of, too.