Saturday, March 6, 2010

# kids # life

Banning the "R" Word

I've been meaning to write this post for days, but life got the best of me again. However, I consider it something very serious and wanted to make sure that I did take/make the time to write it.

Usually, my posts tend to be fairly lighthearted and sometimes very silly. However, I'm warning you now that this post is going to be serious. What I'm writing about isn't a joke or anything to joke about.

As I've posted here before, my oldest son, Ben, has Cerebral Palsy. This is a condition that was caused by the circumstances of my pregnancy with him. It's nobodies fault, it's just something that has happened. My body has issues with being pregnant and Ben's was an incredibly not normal pregnancy. The truth is, we are very lucky and blessed that he's here with us. If my doctor hadn't watched me/us like a hawk, he might not be.

When Ben was younger, he didn't walk at the same age that other kids did. In fact, he didn't take his first steps until he was 33 months old. At one point, he was walking with a walker. Even now, Ben doesn't walk quite like other children do.

Why am I explaining all of this? Well, it's because people notice when kids are different. They notice a child walking with a walker or a child that sometimes falls down in the middle of a store. They notice things and let's face it, they're not always polite about it. I've heard the whispers when we've been out in stores and they hurt my heart because it's my baby that they're whispering comments about. It's during those moments that I've heard the "R" word being used.

I know that some of you may not know what the "R" word is so I'm going to say it once and only once because it's a word that I've personally banned from my vocabulary as well as the vocabulary of my children. The word is Retard or Retarded.

I've heard these horrible words applied to my son simply because he doesn't walk or run or do physical things like many other children. I've hoped and prayed that he has never heard those whispers because I know how damaging they could be to him. Those words have such an ugly connotation. I never want him to hear those words and think that he's stupid (another banned word in our household), dumb or incapable of learning.

The truth is that he's far from any of those things. Ben is actually a good student and for the most part is doing really well in a mainstream classroom. I want to implore all of you, whether you're a regular reader or just stopping in for this post, to remove this word from your vocabulary. Stop and think before you speak. Even if you're not referring to someone, you never know who might overhear it. Every person and child is special and hearing such a word used (whether or not you're referring to them) can be horribly damaging. Yes, there are people and children out there who have learning difficulties. There are some who may never learn above a toddler's level. However, instead of using words that could harm them and perhaps even add to their difficulties, use words that will uplift and encourage them.

On a bit of a connected note, don't be afraid to ask questions. As a parent of a "special needs" child, I would much rather have you approach me and ask me (in a polite manner, of course) about my son than to make assumptions and perhaps have you end up saying something that could cause harm to him. Like any parent, I'm incredibly proud of him and of what he has accomplished. I'm also very aware of how he's different. Go ahead, give me a chance to brag about how he's learned to jump. Let me tell you about our journey and maybe instead of an assumption, you'll walk away with some new knowledge and you never know, maybe a new friend.
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PS If you would like to make a pledge to remove these words from your vocabulary, check out http://www.r-word.org/

6 comments:

Make It Happen Mama said...

Well said, Katie. As a board-certified music therapist who works with special needs children and young adults, and the mother of a preschooler with microtia/atresia, I am constantly amazed how many well-educated adults have this word in their vocabulary. For me, it's right up there with homophobic people using the "G word" :-(

Avin's Momma said...

Katie,

Thank you for the remind how hurtful words can be! My mother worked with retarded kids for a living and using the word "retard" for anything or anyone who was not actually retarded has been banned in my family for years.

One Cluttered Brain said...

I have read another post by another blogger on this R-word. And it was also well-written!
Way to stand up for those different than us. That word is dumb anyway. i like to refer to myself as a crazy goober.
How's that for a word?

And i do believe a goober is a choc covered raisin candy isn't it?
Mmm. YUm!

Deanne said...

Well written Katie! And I totally agree. My little brother has brain damage, is sixteen and has the current equivalent of a first/second grade education due to his learning disablities. But he is making progress all the time and we are proud of him!

And Boo has developmental delays as well. I'm sure we will hear those words as he grows up, but our family does not use them. We do not use the "R" word, the "S" word (stupid) or the "D" word (dumb) or any other words like that.

Great post Katie!

SingleMomKnits said...

My daughter started a campaign at her middle school several years ago to ban the use of the R-word when referring to anyone (up north where we were living at the time, it was common practice to call anyone that as an insult). My daughter was adamant that it shouldn't be used for any reason. I was really happy to see the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign and your post!

Karen said...

People can be incredibly stupid, especially when they are saying something that hurts your heart. Our 3yo grandson has autism. He has trouble expressing himself, and sometime screeches when he's frustrated. Of course, everyone turns around and stares like he's not normal. I want to know: exactly what IS normal? How about normal is being incredibly loved? Then your Ben and our Sam are the extremely normal. Sending hugs to Ben's mom.

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