Developmental Disability: A Curse in the Ancient Era

A blessing for developmentally and intellectually disabled people in the world today is that most of the general population believe in keeping an open mind and their attitude towards disability guided by a tolerant and informed perspective. With the rise of technology, people are more aware than ever. Almost every country has organizations and laws in place that allow disabled people to lead respectful lives. A meaningful life was not always the case, and the harsh plight of disabled people only began to look up a few decades ago. It has taken centuries for people to change their attitude towards the disabled and to be a disabled person in the ancient era was perhaps the worst kind of curse.

The most ancient historical evidence of treatment of disabled people dates back to 7000 B.C and involved the application massages, baths and herbal treatments that attempted to cure developmental and intellectual disability. There are also evidences of “magic” being used in attempts to rid the person of demonic possession. Between 800 BC and 400 BC, however, the idea of treating people for their disability was for the most part abandoned. With little regard for human life, the cultures of the ancient era found it easier to simply kill anyone born with disabilities rather than try to care for or cure them. Ancient Greece and Roman cultures valued perfection and beauty over everything else. As a result, most tortuous malpractices towards developmentally disabled infants, children and adults were inflicted in these cultures.

Disabilities were not understood or tolerated and even the most revered ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle had commanded, “As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there be a law that no deformed child shall live.” Aristotle’s recommendation led to perhaps one of the evilest practices towards the disabled- abandoning disabled infants and children in the cold and leaving them to die. It is hard to imagine the slow and painful deaths thousands of infant and children must have suffered. Infanticide was widely carried out in Ancient Greece for decades in light of Aristotle’s decree.

In ancient Rome, disabled people were referred to as “monstrum” and the birth of a disabled child was seen as an evil omen. The Romans were allowed the freedom to sell, injure or kill their disabled children and people with disabilities often ended up as beggars or in court as a source of amusement and entertainment.

Perhaps the first person to firmly state that developmental disabilities were not because of evil spirits but were a medical illness that could be cured was the great Greek healer, Hippocrates. Later, the Greek physician Sonarus opened the first hospital of its kind, dedicated to treating people with mental and developmental disabilities.

People’s attitude began changing slowly, but nothing changed it as surely as religion. The rise of Christianity, in particular, taught followers; LUKE 9:48 And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. (n.d.).

The Renaissance: Understanding the Developmentally Disabled

Between the 14th and the 17th centuries, the Renaissance, a period that symbolized rebirth and renewal, saw a significant change in people’s perspective towards the developmentally and intellectually disabled. The ill-treatment and disregard towards such individuals by no means ended completely. The disabled were still subjected to forms of abuse, mockery and mental harassment. However, the world was slowly but surely beginning to understand and empathize with the conditions of the developmentally disabled.

The first settlers in American Colonies would prohibit disabled individuals from entering the country, afraid that they would require financial support and would be unable to care for themselves. Even as American colonies shunned the disabled, they could not avoid having disabled babies being born in the colonies. Children who had already settled the colonies would at times to display some form of developmental disability. Ultimately a law was passed that allowed families to provide care and treatment for the disabled within their houses. While a step forward, the individuals were not allowed to be part or interact with their community. The Renaissance was the first time in history that disabled individuals were considered as capable of thinking and learning. Schools and institutions for the disabled were set up throughout America and Europe, and attempts were made to educate and treat them. Laws were passed that allowed disabled individuals to be educated, but in segregated schools, far from the main cities and towns. Almshouses were created to provide shelter and care for beggars, most of whom suffered from some form of disability and the institutionalization of the developmentally disabled, especially those who suffered mental retardation, was encouraged. Most people suffering from intellectual disabilities were sent to such institutes or “correction houses” either for education, treatment or to live their entire lives. The first hospital with a separate section for intellectual disabilities and mental retardation was founded in Philadelphia in the year 1771.

Even as the world was slowly awakening to the plight of the developmentally disabled; an attitude of ignorance, disregard and disrespect was still widely prevalent among the population. Disabled individuals were still not allowed to be a part of the society and the institutions where they were being treated inevitably turned into a place where people could go to stare at them and mock their oddities. At such asylums, institutions and hospitals; the developmentally disabled were kept in cellars and displayed to the public; a shameful act that showcased a blatant disregard towards the plight of such individuals and violated their freedom. During these years, the world was beginning to show compassion towards the developmentally and intellectually disabled, yet there was still a long way to go before such individuals were treated with respect instead of mockery and revulsion.

The One Key Report That Will Win a Social Security Disability Case

After over a 1,000 successful Social Security Disability cases, as a disability lawyer I have found there is one report that can make a difference. What is that report?

First, the agency considers the opinion of the treating doctor to be the most important document in the medical file. However, the critical opinion often does not exist. Why is this? Simply, doctors are involved in treatment. They are not concerned with legal disability issues.

Second, the agency will not allow doctors to make the legal determination in the case. Thus, if the doctor says a claimant is “disabled” the agency will reject this “naked” statement. The agency will say this is a legal determination to be made by the Social Security Judge.

Third, a mere statement that you are “disabled” will not be accepted. However, an opinion (from the treating doctor) stating what impact the claimant’s impairments have on important body functions can be extremely important and may be decisive in a case. For example, the doctor’s opinion on how long the claimant can walk, stand or sit is critical. Also, the doctor’s opinion regarding lifting, bending, etc. is critical.

Fourth, an experienced disability lawyer will have a set of evaluation forms for your doctor. They will be tailored for your individual impairment. For example, for a low back problem, there will be a lumbar spine form. This form will ask the doctor critical questions on how the low back problem impairs important body functions like walking, standing, sitting, lifting, bending, etc.

Fifth, unlike a “naked” statement of disability, this report will elicit what the doctor’s opinion is about the claimant’s ability to perform critical work activities. If the doctor’s opinion in this matter is supported by the doctor’s treatment records over a period of time, then the Social Security Judge may be compelled to give this report “great weight” in the claimant’s case.

Sixth, even if other medical evidence disagrees with the treating doctor’s opinion, the treating doctor’s opinion will prevail if the opinion is well supported by the treating doctor’s records.

In summary, a single report can win a Social Security Disability case. However, it has to fit the above criteria: (1) the doctor must be a treating doctor; (2) the opinion must indicate how critical body functions are affected by the impairment; (3) the opinion cannot just say the claimant is disabled; and (4) the doctor’s opinion must be grounded in the doctor’s treatment records. An experienced Social Security lawyer can work with the claimant’s to develop this winning report.

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic isn’t your ordinary person– he is an extraordinary person. Extraordinary because he has a difficult battle each and every day, as he was born without arms or legs. The condition is called Phocomelia and it is a very rare disorder, one that can manifest in many different ways. For Vujicic it meant bullying and depression when he was a young boy, but he overcame all of that and became a motivational speaker, but not before he completed a double major in college and won many awards.

When Nick Vujicic was young he taught himself to stand up. He has two small deformed feet which, after surgery to un-fuse the toes of one he can use it to pick things up, turn pages in a book, use a phone and many other everyday things we all take for granted. The point is, even at an early age he didn’t give in to his disability, he came up with ways to work with what he had and didn’t think of his limitations. What limitations? He can do whatever he wants to do and do it well.

His motivational speaking has a message and is also deeply rooted in Christianity. He doesn’t just tell people to get over it and keep a positive attitude, but instead supplies a message of hope that also extends to a personal relationship with God. The thinking here is that if He made you a certain way, then He has a use for you in this world. He also urges people to learn to accept that the gift of life is a great one and something that should be cherished, not thrown away because of a disability. His speaking also covers the aspect of hope where obstacles can be turned into opportunities. Like he did as a young boy, you have to take your obstacles and find a way around them. Who better than Nick Vujicic to teach youngsters who are going through emotional or physical things that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel?

When he isn’t speaking, and he has done so more than 3,000 times in more than fifty seven countries, he lives in Southern California where he enjoys fishing and swimming as well as painting. Nick Vujicic is married with two sons and loving life, because, after all life is the gift we should all be thankful for!