Evidences of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities date as far back as the 7000 BC. The percentages of malpractices and ill treatments experienced by the disabled during these early years can be blamed on a lack of scientific knowledge. Aristotle and Plato, two great Greek philosophers, reflected during their time, were both of the opinion that the disabled should not be allowed to live. However, even during the Middle Ages, a time during which scientific thinking was encouraged among the population, the developmentally disabled were still having a difficult time finding a place for themselves in the world.
Attitudes towards the disabled during this time ranged from fear to mockery to absolute loathing and revulsion. Still firmly rooted in religion, the people of the Middle Ages believed that a disabled baby was a curse from the Gods. The much venerated Catholic Priest and Professor, Martin Luther, is himself known to have denounced disabled people as “Filled with Satan” and recommended that they should be killed. As a result, disabled individuals were completely shunned from society and left alone to die. Countless disabled adults and children during this time were whipped or burned at the stake. It is common knowledge that more than a hundred thousand women were accused of being witches and practicing black magic during this period. Many were burned at the stake between 1400 and 1700 AD. A lesser known fact is that evidence indicates that most of these women were known to show some signs of developmental disability. The disability claimed in them being accused of black magic and extremely being killed. During this period of time, a disability was looked upon as a being evil and of the Devil.
During the 1600's, at the time of Queen Elizabeth, most developmentally disabled people were forced to live a life of poverty. The only way they could support them was by begging. The disabled were often mutilated as this made them more believable and successful as beggars. Many of them were looked down upon as a source of mockery and entertainment and had to suffer this embarrassment in return for alms. The developmentally disabled during these years were often referred to as “helpless poor” or “handicap”.
For no fault of their own, except that they were born different from most others, disabled people were termed as idiots, fools and lunatics. During these years, people with disabilities had to surrender to a life of suffering and torture that extremely ended in a painful and untimely death.