The R-word

Recently, I heard someone say the R-word, “retarded”. Honestly, this word didn’t really bother me until Joshua was born. I realize now how hurtful and damaging it can be. I just cringe when I hear it. The word retarded was used to describe mental disability in the late 1800’s. It was a medical term and now has evolved into slang that is used in a derogatory way against people who had mental disability. There is a campaign out that is trying to discourage people from using the R-word, comparing it to other words such as the N-word. I would have to say I agree with this stance. Having a child who has some special needs and may one day be teased about them brings this subject to light for me. I would hate it if someone called my son the R-word and so why should we stand by and allow anyone else to be called it either. At the very worst, it is offensive and at the very least, it’s just plain rude. I am challenging myself and my kids to not say this word anymore and I challenge those around me to do the same.

I was reading an article in the paper about a child who had been adopted from Russia and he had a physical disability that was very obvious. He was being teased by some other children on the playground one day and his mother said to him, “everyone has a handicap, and for those who tease you, their handicap is in their hearts.” That is a powerful statement. I think it is true that everyone has a “handicap”, although I would use the word special need instead, all of us have something a bit different or special about us that isn’t quit “normal”. Some people just have more obvious special needs than others, but that doesn’t mean we need to point it out to them. I don’t think most people mean to offend by the words they use, they are just uninformed. So, I am going to do some informing on proper words to use and not to use when referring to those who might be a little different.

Words not to use:                                           Words to use instead:

Handicap                                                        Disability

Retarded                                                        Mentally disabled

a Down Syndrome child                                   A child with Down Syndrome

A special needs child                                      A child with special needs

a disabled person                                          A person with a disability

Disability Etiquette:

  • Speak directly to the person with the disability, not to an interpreter or caregiver, even if the individual has limited communication skills.
  • Do not force an individual to look you in the eye.  Recognize that neurological disorders may make an individual uncomfortable with eye contact.
  • Extend or refrain from physical touch and hugs the same as you would to a person who is the same age and without a disability.
  • Ask before offering assistance.

I hope this helps other feel more comfortable around those with special needs. We need to try to be inclusive of others not exclusive.



4 thoughts on “The R-word

  1. Well taught…you should probably also start volunteering at the boys’ school. You could do a guest appearance on bullying. Seriously…its great that you are getting your thoughts out there through a blog, but that’s still pretty obscure for such valid and important thoughts. And to use a phrase I absolutely hate: Just sayin’.

  2. And no…you know what…I’m not “just sayin'” either. I really think you should, so I will also “just be thinkin’ about what I was just sayin’.” (Making my own skin crawl…really hate that phrase, but unfortunately it worked here.)

    • I hate that phrase too! The boys school is doing a really good job with bullying initiatives. This subject actually came up at school this week, so I will leave that to Glenn as he is fighting that battle there. But thanks for the encouragement.

  3. I have read a similar blog by my friend Vanessa regarding the R-word.
    The special needs community really is coming out in force with this and I think it’s great.

    Your vocabulary and etiquette lessons are spot-on. Thanks for teaching (or reminding) us!

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