I've had a few conversations in the past weeks here in UA and in the weeks previous back home about the word retarded. Believe it or not, it's actually been removed from the US health descriptions of people that were previously called "mentally retarded" (including all of my disabled kiddos) by a new law called "Rosie's Law".
In recent conversations, there's been the idea of whether we can really shield our kids from everything negative. People can make fun of them because of their hair color, their weight, or their height... and they can make fun of them for their disabilities. But removing a word from the general vocabulary of people around us isn't going to help anything.
I understand, but I think differently.
One day my children will understand that the term "retarded" is referring to people like them. In meeting after meeting at both doctor's offices and schools (and no, I don't think Rosa's Law will make this immediately disappear), people refer to our kids as being mentally retarded. They will (at least most of them) understand that this term in some way describes them. And that it doesn't refer to EVERYONE around.
When it's used negatively by someone trying to hurt them, or trying to hurt someone else... there's nothing we can do about it. Someone trying to be mean WILL be mean.
The problem is... when people use it and don't even THINK about it being something that's insulting or mean.
"That's retarded" or "you're a retard" or "don't be retarded"... these are all things that we hear ALL THE TIME by people around us. Mostly young people, kidding around with friends. Sometimes college age 'kids'-- but often times adults as well.
The thing with this is, they don't MEAN to be insulting or rude. It's simply another word in their vernacular which means "dumb" or "stupid". But guess what?
My kids aren't dumb or stupid.
Yep... they're not only NOT dumb or stupid, but very soon they will begin to recognize this word, and its meaning, and when the doctors use it to describe them... then the teens that they look up to or a babysitter or a friend uses it derogatorily... they ARE going to wonder.
If that person likes me, why do they call me stupid? Why do they make fun of their friends by saying their friend is like me? If they're my friend, my babysitter, my relative, my schoolmate, my parents' friends... if they're someone close to me, why do they think it's bad to be like me?
How do I know that they'll probably feel this way? Because I've talked to other kids, teens, and adults that hold that same "mentally retarded" label. Some with Down syndrome. Some with other disabilities. And they DO voice their concerns. And that IS how they feel.
And so... a challenge. Catch yourself. Catch others. Speak up for those without the 'audience' to speak up for themselves.
If someone's race, gender, or religious beliefs are being used as a common term of "mockery", the group of people it describes generally work together to promote social change and irradicate the word. Unfortunately, using the word 'retard' or 'retarded' is picking on a group of people who won't generally rally together to make things change...
By definition, "retarded" means "slow." Our kids have slower development. It's true! But it's not something to be intertwined with "stupid," "dumb," or any of the like.
In 2007 this high school student made a speech which explained pretty well how he feels about the word. He was then invited to present this speech at several other governmental meetings. Listen. Share. And feel free to comment with your thoughts here as well.