Labels as Self Fulfilling Prophecies
All of these trends did not mean that there was not still a very heavy emphasis on labeling and limiting people. Limited and limiting expectations remained inherent in the definition of disability for many.
For instance, in the May 1982 issue of Pediatric Annals there appeared a table: Prognosis and Expected Functional Level based on degree of retardation. For each "level of mental retardation" expected outcomes were described in terms of academic potential, activities of daily living, travel capability, and vocational ability.
For instance, under "vocational ability" it was said that for those who are "severe" the prognosis is "sheltered employment only, special training required". On the one hand, we were beginning to learn how to support people labeled "severely, profoundly and multiply disabled" to engage in supported employment.
On the other hand, pediatricians were being given information that would lead parents not to expect that kind of outcome for their children, and then quite possibly not to seek it out. [Pediatric Annals 11:5/May 1982 page 425]
This was a slight improvement over the prognosis outlined in a 1971 report of the President's Committee on Mental Retardation. In 1971, the belief was that the individual "may contribute partially to self-maintenance under complete supervision; can develop self-protection skills to a minimal useful level in controlled environment". There was no mention of vocational, let alone employment, potential.
People with disabilities continued to be defined by the lack of capability and the "expected outcome" and therefore denied opportunities to move beyond conservative expectations. People defined as incapable of working in the real world are not likely to be offered opportunities to work in the real world.
In this way, these charts describing the developmental characteristics or functioning levels of individuals became self fulfilling prophecies. Similarly, the belief was that if we could develop better tests to better predict functioning level, then we could do a better job in planning for the future.
If we could only document "need" in these ways, then we could estimate in advance how many beds were needed, how many sheltered workshop slots were needed, how many behavior beds, how many respite beds, and so on. We could forecast service levels, building programs and budgets.