Monday, January 30, 2012

Tap, Tap, Tap... Is This Soapbox Tall Enough?

It still cuts deep.  That r-word that people are so used to saying: retarded. How did a word from an actual medical term, become a word filled with such atrocity? Just like I don’t understand how people can call something “gay” when they are referring to something that is lame, or seemingly stupid. How do you think that makes homosexuals feel? I’d venture to guess it doesn’t make them feel so great. Though the misuse of the word “gay” is mostly heard in people aged 30 or below, I have heard people of every age range use the word “retarded” in my presence when speaking of people with Special Needs and/or referencing something stupid, lame, moronic, etc. Although my son hasn’t been diagnosed with Intellectual Disability, formerly known as Mental Retardation on top of his Severe Autism (classic nonverbal), many of his behaviors mirror those of my high school peers who were in the Special Education Program, and I heard many of my classmates often refer to them as the “retarded kids.” I have to admit, I never even used the word back then. Maybe it’s because I have a very empathetic personality, but it’s always been very easy for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I used to think, “Wow, what if his mom was around and heard someone say that about her child. She would be crushed.”

Well guess what? It is a crushing feeling when I hear that word. I can’t tell you how many times I have posted on my Facebook page in the past few years about my pledge to end the word at Spread The Word To End TheWord, and the fact that “retarded” is a word that marginalizes millions of people with disabilities –or different abilities– worldwide. Please do not ever describe another human being, or something moronic as “retarded.” When you use that word, it is so obvious and clear that you are placing them at a level below that of yourself, as if they are less of a person because of different abilities. How do you think that makes me feel? Let me share a little secret, it certainly makes me question how you view my son, and I don’t like that feeling. Some of you may think I’m being overly sensitive about this, and that’s ok, because I AM overly sensitive about it. How would you feel if you have heard people in supermarkets, restaurants, malls, etc refer to your child as “the retard making all that noise” or you heard the table next to you state “that retarded kid is ruining my dinner” or a family member state “that’s retarded.” Yup. Feels like shit.

So now let me share with you some other options when describing a fellow HUMAN BEING who happens to have (to name a few) Autism, Down’s syndrome, Fragile X, Angelman syndrome, etc.:
  •  differently-abled
  •  special needs
  •  someone with a disability

When trying to express your dislike or opinion of something: 
  • dumb
  • lame
  • stupid
  • un-fun

(the aforementioned words are only  offensive when used to describe a person with disabilities. They are, however, completely acceptable words in the English language –imagine all those times you used the “retarded” in my presence– for example: “My math teacher is so lame” or “that car just made a stupid move” or “Hahaha you are so dumb! LOL!”)

I’m both nervous and excited to announce that I made my first New Year’s Resolution, ever. This year, I resolve to speak up every single time I hear the word used. Remember that. Do you want to be that stranger in the supermarket that I make a mockery of? Do you want to be that person in line at Disneyland that I politely tap on the shoulder then “accidentally” spill my soda on? Or the family member that I have to pull aside and make an awkward moment? I hope your answer to all of those questions is a resounding NO!!!!!!!!

Please show some humanity/empathy and realize that the word “retarded” is unnecessary in everyday language. Take the pledge and Spread The Word To End The Word today.

“Different, not less.” –Temple Grandin


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, except spilling soda on someone at Disneyland. That might be a bit excessive and not exactly get the point across that you want them to get. Otherwise, rock on girl! God obviously placed Olin with the perfect mother to protect, educate and guide him in life. :)

  2. I love this! Had to share.