Wednesday, March 6, 2013

End the Word

One year ago, I wrote a post that I wished I didn't have to write.  One year ago (exactly one year into being a parent of a child with Down syndrome) I wrote this post, explaining my position on "The R-Word" ("Retard" or "Retarded").

Since that time I have heard from many of you, both good and bad.  I have been thanked for my explanation and told "I had never considered that before".  I've also been told that this is "nitpicking" and "inconsequential" and "not important" and I am "wasting my time".

I will say now, that anything I do to try and make this world a better place for my kids, is never a waste of time. 

A full year later, here we are again.  Today is R-Word.Org's Spread the Word to End the Word Day of Action.  It's still a day that I wish I didn't have to happen.  This is yet another post that I wish I didn't have to write.

I'm not alone either.  Many bloggers have spoken out on the use of the R word, some of which will be linked to the blog hop below.  I've said it all before... I've talked about it's dehumanizing effects, I have mentioned how belittling this term is.  Yesterday, this post appeared in the Huffington Post.  Remember Amelia?  The R word almost killed her.

It is no longer a term suitable for medicine as both the DSM and the World Health Organization have seen fit to drop it from their next updates.  It is being written out of legislation.  The only place it really thrives these days is in every day parlance. I realize people fear change.  I realize that people feel like they are under attack each and every time I or anyone else, politely points out their use of this offensive word.


You should feel under attack as that is exactly what you are doing to thousands of Intellectually Disabled and Developmentally Delayed individuals.  This word, this word that you use to describe the silly little foibles in your day, has been used for hundreds of years to hurt, maim, demean and ultimately kill.

I've also heard from a few parents of children with special needs that they do not see their child as this word, that they do not let it define them.  I sincerely wish these parents well.  I also hope that their child's future potential employer and the registrar at their child's future college share this view.   Unfortunately the world-at-large does define our children by this word.  To some, they are useless eaters.  To others they are still easy targets for ridicule and abuse.  Then, the R word and by extension, those that are defined by it, are demeaned even further when used to describe life's trivial little problems.

I think John C. McGinley, put it best.  There is no tax.  There is no cost to disparaging a group of people that have done nothing to you.

Stretch your vocabulary.  Define yourself as a compassionate and caring individual, not an ignorant, abilist, archaic bigot.   Practice inclusion. Use person first language and offer respect to your fellow human beings.  The R word is not useful, nor accurate, nor funny.  Take the pledge to End the Word.

I hope one day I won't have to make these posts, that we will all live in a world with acceptance of neurodiversity.  More and more minds are opened every day, that is true.   More and more the language is changing; in our laws, in our texts, in our lives.  Like every other civil rights movement that has gone before, we are in this for the long haul.

With that in mind, I guess I'll see you next year...

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Add your R-Word post now! 


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