Rise above the “R” Word- Down syndrome awareness Month

October is Down syndrome awareness month, and as I thought about what to be aware of the word retarded continued to come to mind.  You see, in many ways this word haunts me and the many others who live and love people with mental disabilities.  As I thought about what to write and how to express my feelings on this word, it dawned on me that it was really quite simple and can be explained as you would explain it to a child….

Retarded is not a nice word.

The R-word is INCORRECT

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I realize that for some of you the immediate response is “give me a break” or “I don’t mean anything by it” and I get that.  Truthfully, I was a person who, up until the birth of my child, did use this word; quite often I must add, and I carry guilt over that to this day.   I never meant anything by it- I certainly didn’t know I was offending anyone.  It was just another word.  The problem is that it’s NOT just another word.  Like many other words that people of a certain culture, race, or sexual orientation are mortified to hear, retarded NOW falls into that category for me.  If you look at the online dictionary you will find this

Retarded- Often Offensive Affected with mental retardation.

This word is a slap in the face to all the parents who have a child they see working so hard every day to learn, to grow, and to love.  Who strive to fit in and be just like their peers, to be seen as equals and who are thrown back a few steps every time someone in society uses this word.

The R-word spreads HURT

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Now, I realize that being politically correct can be annoying and that sometimes in today’s age it seems like the list of “inappropriate words” continues to grow.  But the bottom line is – it doesn’t matter.  If a word is offensive to an entire group of people living in society then it should be known, and people should attempt to remove that word from their vocabulary.

Why?  Because whether you mean for it to be or not, it’s like a punch in the gut to so many people who deal with the reality of mental delays on a daily basis.  This alone is enough reason to stop using it- and any word that offends a group of people in this world.  Because we are PEOPLE first and should use PEOPLE first language.

Using the R word pushes Kelsi back a few steps and further perpetuates untrue stereotypes about Down syndrome.   So the next time you go to use the word retarded, I urge you to think about my daughter and please don’t.  This small difference will help strip away the ignorance surrounding Down syndrome and help empower Kelsi in her life.  Also, if you hear someone else use it simply explain it to them as you would to a child…

Retarded is not a nice word.

The R-word IGNORES INDIVIDUALITY

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One thought on “Rise above the “R” Word- Down syndrome awareness Month

  1. Clarice Burkgren says:

    Yes, the R word should be erased from our vocabulary but back in 1980 when we went to a Special Camp for “retarded’ children we were told by the camp counselor that our daughter, who has autism was an IDIOT. So we have come a long ways, but re-read my first sentence … the R word must be erased, too.

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