Dual Diagnosis Developmental Disabilities

Dual diagnosis developmental disability is often related to mental illness. Mental retardation is a thought, a condition, a syndrome, a symptom, and a source of pain for many families. The thought of mental retardation can be found as far back in history as the therapeutic papyri of Thebes (Luxor), Egypt, around 1500 B.C. though somewhat vague due to difficulties in translation, these documents clearly refer to disabilities of the mind and body due to brain damage. Mental retardation is also a condition or syndrome defined by an anthology of symptoms, traits, and/or characteristics. It has been defined and renamed many times all through history. For instance, feeblemindedness and mental deficiency were used as labels during the later part of the last century and in the early part of this century. Constant across all definitions are difficulties in learning, social skills, everyday functioning, and age of onset (during childhood). Mental retardation has also been used as a defining attribute or symptom of other disorders such as Down syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. Finally, mental retardation is a confront and potential source of stress to the family of an individual with this disorder. From detection through treatment or education, families struggle with question about cause and prognosis, as well as guilt, a sense of loss, and disillusionment about the potential outlook.

The predicament of individuals with developmental disabilities has been dependent on the customs and beliefs of the era and the culture or locale. In ancient Greece and Rome, infanticide was a common do. In Sparta, for instance, neonates were examined by a state council of inspector. If they assumed that the child was imperfect, the infant was thrown from a cliff to its death. By the second century A.D. individuals with disabilities, including children, who lived in the Roman Empire were frequently sold to be used for activity or enjoyment. The dawning of Christianity led to a turn down in these barbaric practices and a movement toward care for the less fortunate; in fact, all of the early religious leaders, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius, advocated human treatment for the mentally retarded, developmentally disabled, or infirmed.

During the Middle Ages (476 - 1799 A.D.), the status and care of individuals with mental retardation varied greatly even though more human practice evolved (i.e., decreases in infanticide and the establishment of foundling homes), many children were sold into slavery, deserted, or left out in the cold. Toward the end of this period, in 1690, John Locke published his well-known work entitled An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke said that an individual was born without inborn ideas. The mind is a tabula rasa, an empty slate. This would deeply sway the care and training provided to individuals with mental retardation.

While the medical and psychosocial communities were mounting a satisfactory definition and classification system, the educational community adopted their own system of classification. Children who were educable could learn simple academic skills but not move above fourth grade level. Children who were believed to be teachable could learn to care for their daily needs but very little academic skill. Children who appeared to be non-teachable or totally reliant were considered in need of long term care, perhaps in a residential setting. Some form of this method is still in use today in many school systems throughout the country.