Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Be Kind: Part Two -- Retard.

[Originally posted July 2013]

In today’s world, our reality is media-driven. The images and words used to describe others can be very powerful and influential. “The press can have an enormous impact on society’s knowledge, attitudes, and public policies regarding individuals with disabilities” (Blaska,1990, p. 26). This type and level of influence becomes even more important when we consider how impressionable our youngest members of society are. Children form attitudes and opinions based on what they hear and read. When the adults around them use words like retarded, handicapped or disabled in conversation, it reinforces their place in language and attitudes for the next generation (Blaska, 1990)

"That is so RETARDED!"
I get that lump in my throat. Did she just say that? One of my closest friend? The one who was so sympathetic and there for me when Recker was diagnosed with Autism. The same friend who held me tight and comforted me when i felt like my world was crashing down? 

"I felt like such a RETARD!"
This time its an immediate family member, telling a story sitting around the table at Sunday dinner. Everyone is laughing except me. I can feel my heart pounding, my face is getting hot and flushed. I dont want to be the downer who stands up and corrects them. I feel sick to my stomach.

"You are so retarded!"
A stranger jokingly says while speaking to their friend. I hear the word and look down at my sweet boy sitting in the grocery cart. I pray he doesnt understand the meaning of the word. I struggle whether or not to say something and bring attention to it in front of Recker. 

The "R" word is used all the time by waaaay to many people. 

It is used as an insult. Its used in movies, the radio, at school, on social media and unbelievably even in the White House. It has become so common and used so freely that people dont think about how hurtful it really is and how many people that it affects.

I have a hard time stepping up and responding to someone when they use the word in front of me. I always fear embarrassing someone or upsetting them. 

But its time that it stops. 

Most people who use the word claim that they arent using it negatively, or say that they "don't mean it like that."

Well what you dont relize is that it hurts me, and it hurts Recker. 

When the "R" word is used, it is thrown out there into the Universe, it ultimately hurts Recker and EVERYONE with cognitive disabilities. By using the word it, even just the once it shows intolerance and ignorance. 

Recker may not understand the meaning of the word now, but as he gets older and goes to church and school the "R" word will end up separating him from his peers. It will tell everyone that Recker and those like him are less than, that they are inferior and unworthy.

If you know my son, you know that in NO WAY is he inferior, less than or unworthy.

Recker is the most sweet loving little 3 year old there is. His eyes just burst with love and happiness. That infections laugh can get a whole room rolling with laughter. Everyone that knows Recker can not help but love him. His aunts & uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers and therapists all absolutely love Recker and always want to be around him. He is so loved. So why is it that those that love him still say the "R" word? Simply we need to try harder. I am not perfect. Before we had Recker, im sure you could catch me using the "R" word every once and awhile. 

But it is personal now. 

Please try to be kind when speaking. Do your best to understand how and why that word is so awful and negative. Remember that it hurts so many amazing people when you put that word out into the world. Our sweet Recker included. 

Please do not be offended when i correct you.
I am just trying to advocate for my son who can not do it for himself.


  1. air fives, kayla. i'm with you.

  2. Thanks for the post Kayla. I totally agree and I commend you for posting this.

    It was a word that I didn't think of much of years ago when people said it casually. I only ever called someone on it if they were using the word in a derogatory way. But since Brody was diagnosed it took on a new meaning. I've realized that any use of it is actually derogatory and inappropriate. As soon as I learned that there is an actual diagnosis of 'mental retardation' it also changed how I processed the word. I've also heard a new jokes. People have found new ways of calling someone 'retard' without calling them that name. I've noticed people call someone "special" in a negative way. Also there is the joke about people on the 'short bus'. So as I noticed more talk about not using the "R" word it has been nice but I am still disappointed to hear others still compare people to those that are developmentally and mentally challenged. Brody rides a 'short' bus to and from school and has done so for about 3 years! I refer to him as 'special needs'? It is awful that someone calls another person these things and that those who cannot help their differences in life are thrown out as an insult!

    Rude remarks, offensive comments and inappropriate name-calling has always been in a matter of degrees. We should all not come close to it and embrace kindness....or to be honest be able to widen our vocabulary and use more intelligent language! I know I am taking this subject matter from the causal use of the R word which is wrong (that you are talking about in this post) but I have noticed it a lot in the past few years and it really bothers me.

    People I know still use the 'R' word and I hope it stops. I hope it goes in the basket with 'gay' and all the other racial and stereotypical insults people use and we throw that bag in a river and let it drift away!

  3. I too cringe when I hear people using this word negatively because I find it very offensive. I'm right there with you. I've asked people not to use that word in the past, and it usually goes over smoothly. People commonly use words without thinking of their implication - it just takes a lot of reminders and speaking up to help people break the habit. Easier to do with friends and family, not so much with strangers.

  4. I honestly have no idea why people use this word when there a plethora of alternatives. What numbskulls.