Wednesday, March 7, 2012

spread the word to end the word

This is a campaign to enlighten us all to the negative and derogatory term "retarded". At some point it was the medically correct term for someone with an intellectual disability- mental retardation. But the word morphed into slang- to say something or worse- someone "was retarded" for doing something stupid, or used as a put down "what a retard", had become commonplace.
Some threads I read launched into a tirade about going overboard with being Politically correct, or rants about banning words. But if your loved one has a disability, it is personally offensive, and stereotyping.
One can have a multitude of disabilities, and still excel at  number of things, one of those being compassion. The term retarded comes with a stigma of negative assumptions.

Because, like ripples in a pond, we can make the change happen.

Today is the official day to spread the word to end the word.

" Every time Ellen Seidman hears the word "retarded," she worries for her 9-year-old son, Max, who has cerebral palsy. She wonders if people will ever respect him, or see him as an equal, if they associate that word with people like him, who have intellectual disabilities. 

"I'm not saying that anyone who uses the word flippantly has something against people with special needs," said Seidman, a magazine editor and mom blogger. "But it is a demeaning word even if it's meant as a joke, because it spreads the idea that people who are cognitively impaired are either stupid or losers."

Seidman is not alone in her desire to see "the R-word" go the way of racial slurs once considered acceptable. More than 250,000 people have pledged online to take part in the Special Olympics' campaign to "spread the word to end the word." Many of them are expected to participate in Wednesday's annual day of action through pledge drives, fundraisers and individual acts to raise awareness."

Here is the video she created:

"It starts with thinking about a word, but I want it to translate into the way people treat others with disabilities," she said. "It's about helping to see people with cognitive impairments as great people, as competent people, as people who can contribute in so many ways to our society."
Launched by two college students in 2009, the campaign is gaining traction not only among the citizenry, but in the halls of government and the medical community. President Obama passed Rosa's Law in 2010, which eliminates the use of the words "retarded" and "retardation" in federal health, education and labor laws.
The bill changed the terms "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability" and "mentally retarded individual" to "individual with an intellectual disability." This shift made the terms more consistent with language already used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations, and the White House. Currently, 43 states have passed similar legislation or have similar bills pending, according to the Special Olympics.

 What if you or a family member - like your own child, had such an impairment?
 Any words chosen will be a label of sorts, but it is only to recognize a real medical condition, not a put down.
Now kids with various intellectual disabilities are often mainstreamed into regular classes.  There are many people with intellectual disabilities who went on to do great things:

• Albert Einstein: Einstein was unable to talk until he was four years old and could not read until he was 
nine. Teachers considered him to be mentally deficient, unsociable and a dreamer.  
He failed the entrance examination for college. He would become arguably the 
world’s most famous physicist after developing the theory of relativity. 

• People diagnosed with learning disabilities:

Tom Cruise
President John F. Kennedy
Henry Ford (of the Ford motor company)
Army General George Patton
Charles Schwab (Brokerage)
Nobel Prize winner for Literature George Bernard Shaw
John Forbes Nash is an Noble laureate American mathematician (featured in the film A Beautiful Mind)

I think it's great that there is this concerted effort to "enlighten up" to raise our consciousness, and level of compassion.


Life As I Know It Now said...

I told my children as they got older that it wasn't right or nice to speak in such terms. I also had to nix the use of the word gay. Everything considered stupid was considered gay. Gay does not equal stupid, gay means homosexual or being happy but it does not mean being stupid.

The slang they picked up from their peers in school and I don't know if they still use those terms but they don't around me because they don't want to hear my lecture on compassion and equality that I am sure to deliver soon after. :)

D.K. Raed said...

Growing up with a Downs cousin a year younger than me was an enlightening experience. He struggled so much and yet is one of the kindest people I've ever known.

In the 1970's, his parents (my aunt and uncle) set up a Special Olympics chapter in their town and also sponsored weekly dances to give mentally disabled kids a place for socialization without critcism or confrontation. Those programs helped others in their town see firsthand how much these kids contributed to the overall community and became a model that their state followed in other towns.

Over the years, as the language has morphed, to continue to call them mentally retarded is more a reflection on the ignorance of the one using that language. In our family, Jeff was always Jeff ... no adjectives necessary.

Fran said...

Life~ Same here. My oldest son used the term (must have picked it up @ school, because it was not from home!) I called him out on it every time. It really bothered me, even after I explained to him how discriminatory & derogatory using the word in that way was.
My 2 kids are exact opposites! One is very conscientious to not use stereotypes- for race, gender, sexual orientation & alter abled people as well. While the other one drifted off into using "retarded" heavily, and sometimes gay was used as you mention... but I drew the line.
It's offensive to use those words in that way.
At least he knew for sure it was not OK to say it
in my presence- called him out every time.

DK ~ Sure is different when you put a real person/ human face on a disability-- as you said their spirit and abilities shine through & you focus on the person rather than the disability.

Anonymous said...

I want to compliment you on this blog post about the word "retarded". My son has gone through a lot of hell dealing with that word. It needs to be removed from our language - just as the "n" word is now ALMOST gone.