Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Close your eyes. Say the word retarded. What are you picturing?

Stupid. Silly. Dumb. Ridiculous. Goofy. Horrible. Ignorant. Naive. Nonsense. Ugly. Uncoordinated. Idiotic. Awful. Grievous. Incapable. Despicable. Challenged. Slow. Different. Annoying. Bad. Unworthy. Worthless.... These are all words that the word retarded/retard is interchanged for. The same word that can be found on Fiona's medical chart right after Down syndrome- mentally retarded.

I was so accustomed to using the R word prior to being introduced to the special needs world. I, in fact, was someone who used to defend my right to use it because "I didn't mean it that way". It flowed from my lips daily from everything to referring to a test I had to take to my opinion of what someone said. I didn't bat an eye at using it, nor did I recognize what exactly I was saying. I know for a fact that when people made a comment on the offense of the word, I laughed how they were over reacting. After all, " I didn't mean it that way".

My husband was the first to call me out on it. The first person to put the word next to its definition and show me what I was indicating with my flippant language.

My daughter is retarded.

She is the definition of that word. slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progres

When I hear it, it is very much intertwined with Fiona. And Brooke and Mia and Addison and Max and Dominic and Nella and Carson. Abby and Russell and Lily and Marlena and 50 other names that belong to people I care about that are mentally retarded. It's no longer just a word to me, but faces. While we are replacing words like stupid, worthless, despicable with the word retarded,  the pain comes that we might as well be replacing them with these amazing kiddos names. The true Marion/Webster definition of Retarded is: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress. Yet we use it as a synonym for all those above words.

That shirt is retarded- that shirt is ugly, horrible, bad...
You are such a retard- you are so stupid, naive, incapable, dumb...
How retarded is this? - how annoying is this? idiotic? worthless?...

Those words do not relate to the amazing people who have handicaps. Not if you knew them. Not if you gave them a chance. Not if you accepted them.

Which is why I am in shock when it goes through my mind. Frequently, in my own internal banter, I say this word inappropriately. I stab a knife through my own heart as old habits die hard. I even slipped and started to say it out loud the other night and stood in absolute shock it even started to come off my lips. Yes me, who for the last two years has stood on my platform to not use this word. I get it, why people use it. It's still considered socially acceptable by most, one that most are in habit of using, and it's true meaning has not hit you yet. I occasionally get worn down by those who say "Just get over it, its not a big deal" and start to believe them. But then I look at my Fiona. Who is medically labeled retarded. And I hear someone talking about a shirt being retarded, or a comment, or even a person, who medically, is not, and how they feel about whatever they are talking about directly reflects on the little respect we have for those who are disabled.  I am not out to attack your freedom of speech, but simply to make you aware. And its not a matter of eradicating a word, but  simply showing respect for people.

Spread the Word to End the Word national campaign day is tomorrow. I am asking that we think before we speak. It has to start there.


When you closed your eyes, what did you picture? Chances are you pictured a mentally handicapped person. The hanging tongue, the curled hands, wheel chair, glasses, what ever stereo type picture that you have of someone mentally challenged. The truth is we all know the meaning of the word. We just don't care enough about the offense of it.

Language is a powerful thing.


  1. You just wrote the exact post I was sitting down to write. I'm hoping through all of us, we can raise more awareness...so our children don't have to "deal with it". They deserve more respect!

  2. Julie Stephenson BarberMarch 7, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Very well said!

  3. very good...and well thought out...I am learning how to deal with this...I never imagined this word would offend me so much...that I would ache when I heard it...putting faces to names is what gets people to change...smiles


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