Intellectual Disability, History of

The history of identifying and caring for individuals with intellectual disability is a complicated one, notable both for humane efforts and for departures from a spirit of research and advancement. Societies have long identified those who cannot function without substantial protection, and commentary about individuals with what we now call intellectual disability appears in ancient Egyptian text dating to approximately 1500 BCE. In the case of milder forms of intellectual disability, earlier societal structures required and valued manual labor that provided a niche for individuals who were unable to participate in the more complex aspects of their communities. Competition in more difficult economic periods and the inevitable drive toward higher complexity within societies made access to many of these positions less feasible for individuals with ...

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