Historically, segregation and social isolation have been recurring responses to people considered defective or deficient in some way. And it is in the midst of such a society that special educator J. David Smith wrote this book, which presents critical historical and contemporary issues in mental retardation. Told through gripping vignettes and interwoven with the story of the life of John Lovelace, a man labeled mentally retarded as a child then institutionalized and sterilized, this gripping text will make all readers reconsider not only our social policies and practices, but also our personal actions, in relation to people with mental retardation. Topics covered here include an examination of ways people have been misidentified as having disabilities, then needlessly warehoused in institutions. Coupled with the tragic story of John Lovelace, this book is one that will be long remembered by its readers, and will ideally spur them to action. This book offers new directions for the field of mental retardation, including conceptual and terminology changes regarding intellectual disabilities, and new thinking about the people whose lives have been altered by the term and the concept.
Insights from parents, friends, teachers, and varied special education experts are included, as is the strong view of author Smith, who befriended Lovelace. He was often ignored, regularly avoided and treated as less than a person, as invisible, explains Smith. And Lovelace is the metaphorical island to which each chapter here returns, a vivid example of the denial of freedom and dignity to people who bear an intellectually inferior label. In the end, we see how society can promote values that inspire and challenge us to create humane and just treatment for all, or we can just look the other way when facing disturbing human needs.