Wednesday, March 6, 2013

End the word...

Today in the world of special needs is "end the "R" word" day.  I don't know why this post is so difficult for me to write.  It hurts me deep inside to even type the word "retard".  I feel like I am betraying my precious Sienna just by typing it out. 
I used to use the word "retard" so casually.   I was completely oblivious to the hurt I might be causing.  I know most people who use that term do not do so to be deliberately hurtful to those with "developmental delays" or "mental retardation".  It is used without second thought - "oh, I am so retarded.." 
But what does it mean to be retarded?  Well, I know what it doesn’t mean.
It doesn’t mean not being able to find your car keys.
It doesn’t mean saying the wrong thing to a person.
It doesn’t mean forgetting your best friend’s birthday.
It’s not something to describe yourself as when you’ve spilled your coffee, or tripped on a crack in the sidewalk.
It’s not something to describe your computer, car or phone.

For ME the word is a diagnosis my daughter carries.  My beautiful, smart, caring girl.  The real definition of "retarded" means slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development.  My precious daughter who is slow in her development. 
I'm going to copy from another blog what being retarded means to me now.

"In our household, being retarded means something different.
It means not being able to fully care for yourself.
It means not understanding what the doctor is going to do to you.
It means not being able to explain what hurts when something hurts.
It means not being able to ride a two wheeler. Or read. Or maybe ever be able to live on your own.

But ever the optimist, I also know that retarded means…
…never realizing the negativity behind the word retarded.
…never knowing the insensitivity surrounded the word’s usage.
…never realizing the ignorance of people.
…never knowing how other people view you.

Being retarded also means…
…loving unconditionally.
…finding joy in the smallest of things.
…being self-confident.
…not realizing that there are limitations.

This is Sienna.  Her diagnosis is down syndrome.  Her biggest obstacle - mental retardation.  When you call yourself retarded you are calling my daughter stupid.  Sienna is anything but stupid.  She is so smart.  Slower to learn things?  Yes, but definitely not stupid. 
Most people don’t use the word “retarded” maliciously. Most people I know use it in a self-depreciating way.  But the thing is, you’re still using it in the way that people who do use it maliciously use it as – to describe stupidity.
So why not just use the word “stupid” instead? Because I know what “retarded” is. I live with it in the form of my daughter. And in our world “retarded” doesn’t equate to “stupid”.
Please spread the word to end the "word"  It is hurtful no matter how you mean it.