Tag Archives: Spread the word to end the word

You Shouldn’t Wait for it to Offend You Before You Take a Stand

Today is the official day of awareness for the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.

Per usual, I have been reading posts from various bloggers who I often read, and today a particular post struck a nerve with me – not in a bad way. The author wrote You’re not offended until it affects you as a response to someone who simply does not understand why the word “retard” can cause one to get so “worked up.”

I paused for a moment and let out a not-so-silent Amen! to myself. And then, I paused once more as I thought about my experience and how true that was for me personally. Which then led to me to think, “Wow, it’s such a shame that it took disability directly impacting my life before I changed my mindset.” Finally, I realized how true this is for MOST people.

So many people vehemently defend their “right” to say the r-word by citing their right to free speech among other erroneous excuses (see the article linked above), but what all those excuses boil down to is the fact that they likely have zero experience with people who have intellectual disabilities so they don’t understand the “big deal”.

They don’t know what it’s like to see a loved one struggle with the most basic of tasks, to wonder if their child will ever speak, to wonder if their child will ever walk without a limp, to wonder if their child will ever walk at all. They don’t know the fear in our hearts when we send our child to school for the first time and HOPE that he will be accepted by his peers. Will they tease him because he doesn’t walk fast enough? Or because her speech is slow and difficult to understand? Will they point and laugh because he rides the “short bus”? Will they simply call her a “retard” and walk away?

If these thoughts have never crossed your mind, you’ve probably never second-guessed your “right” to say the r-word either, but that still doesn’t make it okay for you to use the word. When we (parents of children with disabilities) correct you or bring it to your attention, it’s not to embarrass you or chastise you – it’s to educate you because we know you might not have had a clue how that word affects us and our children. We know because we’ve been you.

So many of us grew up using the r-word and never gave it a second thought. But then we grew up and had a child with a disability and “retarded” became part of our child’s diagnosis.  Suddenly, the word lost all of it’s hilarity. I was ashamed and embarrassed that I ever used that word so frivolously. Suddenly, the word had real meaning and it did NOT mean stupid, pathetic, loser, less than, ridiculous or any other word the r-word often replaces. With a single word, our dreams changed, our world turned upside down, and our instinct to protect our child from ever hearing the word kicked in. Suddenly, it became a very “big deal” and it was no longer “just a word.”

You’re not offended until it affects you.

Why should disability have to affect any of us at all before we are offended by the r-word?  I love my child unconditionally with no end, but I would not wish any of the struggles we have had on anyone, simply so that they understand the true significance of a word. Don’t wait until it is too late. 1 in 10 Americans are affected by a Rare Disease. 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with Autism. The prevalence of other disabilities is just as great. Chances are, you DO know someone with a disability. They may not be YOUR child or YOUR family, but they are human and they have feelings and they deserve your respect. The r-word hurts an entire population of people, just as racial epithets do. It does not belong in our vocabulary and should no longer have a place in our culture. Find the compassion in your heart and hear my words. I don’t want you to know the hurt I have before this issue matters to you. Take a stand NOW. If one day, you learn your child has an intellectual disability you will be spared the shame and embarrassment I faced when that word became more than “just a word.”

 

Take the pledge now and Spread the Word to End the Word.

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My Biggest Fear And How YOU Can Help

Stop the r-word.

Stop the r-word.

Sure, at first glance, Braxton doesn’t appear to have any medical issues.  In fact, most only see the handsome, smiling baby staring back at them, but things are not always what they appear to be.  That brings me to my first issue: What does “disability” look like? Does a person need to appear physically deformed before you consider them disabled? Before you knew Braxton, did you know “disabled” people could look…”NORMAL”? There is no standard of what people HAVE to look like in order to be classified as disabled, nor should it matter what they look like to deserve respect! That brings me to my next issue: RESPECT.  One of the ultimate forms of disrespect is name-calling and using words like “retard.” Mentally Retarded was once an official medical diagnosis used to describe many individuals who were “slowed or delayed in cognitive ability” (the official definition of “retard”).  Wait a minute…what do you mean “was once an official diagnosis” ? Yup, ONCE.  “Mentally Retarded” is NO longer recognized as an official diagnosis. The term has been stricken from legislation, healthcare policies, and diagnostic terms partially due to the extremely negative connotation the word now has.  Over the years, society has taken a medical term and the individuals it was ascribed to and transformed the word in such a way that not only is it mean and hurtful, it completely demeans the worth of millions of individuals.

Finally, this brings me to one of my biggest fears.  Eventually, Braxton has to go to school.  I am terrified of that day.  I’m not afraid of him being in school, but I am afraid of the other kids he will be in school with.  We are still so unsure of what the future holds for Braxton with whatever diagnosis he may have, but I’m certain he will have cognitive delays.  At 20 months, Braxton is actually more like a 10-11 month old baby developmentally.  It is possible that he “catches up” and maybe even has “normal” cognitive ability, but no one can tell me that with any certainty.  Who knows if his diagnosis may also bring physical deformities later in life – there is so much we don’t know right now, and most days I silence those thoughts and thank God for the blessings of today.  I’m so thankful that Braxton is doing as well as he is, but I know he’s still not where he should be.  I’m so scared of Braxton going to

Teach your children to be respectful

Teach your children to be respectful

school and being bullied.  I know it’s going to happen and there is nothing I can do about it.  And THAT is what terrifies me – the nothing I can do about it part.  I’m deeply saddened that as a parent I cannot help shield my son from the cruelty and hate in this world, that all I can do is help prepare him to face it, and hope he is able to actually defend himself when the time comes.  Braxton will be one who the term “Mentally Retarded” describes.  Actually, the official term is now “Intellectual Disability” and I know this is something we will have to deal with.  Braxton is more than likely always going to be behind his peers.  I don’t even know if Braxton will ever even speak correctly.  He makes many sounds, but none are real words with meanings.  He may need an assistive communication device to talk to us.  Hopefully he will learn sign language to communicate with us too.  He’s always going to be different.  We will do our best at home to teach him to embrace his differences and not be embarrassed by them.  We will teach his sister how to stand up for him.  She already loves him despite any disability, and I’m so thankful she will also grow up and be more tolerant of others because she has grown up in such an environment.  But hate, cruelty, bullying, ignorance, and a slew of other things no child should EVER have to deal with we will HAVE to prepare for, because it will inevitably happen.

I will admit (although I’m ashamed to) that yes, I once threw around the word “retard” like it was nothing.  I felt like if I wasn’t using it toward an individual with an intellectual disability in a mean way that it was no big deal.  I was wrong. Very wrong. It’s a HUGE deal. Sadly, it took having my own child with disability to get me to understand this.  And that’s where YOU come in.  I need YOU to help me bring this issue to light. To understand it’s importance in our life and how it directly affects us.  I can’t change the future, I can’t stop the hate my son will face, but I CAN attempt to educate everyone I meet and everyone who reads The r-wordour story about the terrible effects of the “r-word.” The word is usually used in a derogatory manner to mean any number of things including: stupid, pathetic, loser, moron, idiot – none of which is how I would want my son to be described.  This is so much more than a language change; it’s a culture change.   We as a culture have to change the way we think about people with disabilities and words like “retard” and ultimately strike that word from our vocabulary altogether.  You may not realize that your choice of words is harmful to people, but I’m here to tell you that it is.  The r-word hurts million of people and kids like Braxton.  If you wouldn’t want someone picking on Braxton, you shouldn’t stand for anyone slandering another child similar to Braxton.  When people are called out for using the r-word the standard response is something like “Oh, I didn’t mean YOUR kid” or “I didn’t mean it like THAT” or “well, you know what I meant” No, actually I don’t know what you meant.  From where I stand you meant to say that you did something stupid or foolish, or that someone else did something pathetic, or that someone is a loser.  Why not say that? Why not choose another word? Why not strike the insult altogether? The Special Olympics started the “Spread the word to end the word” campaign several years ago to tell people how harmful the r-word is and to get people to think about what their words mean.  Today is the national campaign day to spread the word.  There is still time for you to go to r-word.org and add your name to the list to pledge to STOP the use of the word “retard.” Little by little we can all make a difference for Braxton and all the children like him.

Spread the Word to END the Word

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Spread The Word to End The Word

So today is “Spread the Word to End the Word” What word might that be? The “r-word,” you know, “retard.” Although this post doesn’t specifically deal with the “r-word,” it’s about how words can hurt and ultimately has the same underlying goal: RESPECT! People of ALL abilities deserve respect no matter what. I will probably write more on the “r-word” later, but for now re-read this post I wrote last year about respect and tolerance for children with disabilities.

Journey Full of Life

If there was ever a question I absolutely abhor hearing, that would be the one. [Notice, I used abhor, not hate, not dislike, but abhor – extreme repugnance or aversion; to detest utterly; loathe – get the idea?] This one simple question can cause so much damage and most don’t even know it.

Let me first make clear, I don’t care what other people think or have to say about my kid. It doesn’t make US treat him any differently, love him any less, or change his plan of care. Kids, however, are another story. Sure, he’s not old enough now to understand the inquisitive eyes, but one day he’ll see just how cruel the world is and wonder what’s really going on. We took Braxton out a few times over the weekend after his surgery, and you would NOT believe the ugly looks he got. While I may just…

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