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Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Meghan through the years

Meghan's age

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Trisomy 21 trio of cuties

10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes you knew

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spread the Word to End the Word

I am sure I have said it before, I know most of the family has, because it is one of those words that we got used to hearing and accepted as a harmless word, and then Meghan came into our lives and saying it always made me look at her and feel shocked at myself. Here was my precious baby girl smiling up at me, and I was saying I was retarded for forgetting to put salt in the soup? What was I thinking? How could I say such a insensitive thing? Of course I never thought it pertained to children like my daughter, I was thinking more in terms of myself being a mindless idiot who did not use their brain...oh my word, how horrid of me. I am not saying that the habit of using that word left immediately, because that would be a lie, it was hard to break myself it I am rather ashamed to say. It never failed to make me blanch of feel horrified with myself though.

It is a plain fact that Meghan was born with intellectual disability, she learns slower than you and I and she has to repeat things over and over again to memorize their meaning. When we did paperwork for her to enter Kindergarten they gave her a label which included the word retarded. (Thank goodness Rosa's Law* changed that label)

When Kara and Amanda were born, their country also had a label for them to describe how slow they learned, it was oligophrenic, which means small brained, or mental retardation. That diagnosis is why their parents signed abandonment papers and left them in the hospital.

A child born with Down syndrome typically has a degree of cognitive disability, most in the moderate range, some better, some worse. This issue contributes to a 92% abortion rate when there is a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. People are afraid of having a child who will not learn like average children. How will they ever be a rocket scientist, a doctor? President?Perfect?

I think we can all agree that when someone uses the word retard or retarded, they are thinking about children like mine. Most children will poke fun of kids who learn slower (or are different in any noticeable way), and they learn rather quickly that teachers and parents do not get too upset when they use the R word. After all, they hear mommy saying how retarded she is for forgetting to put gas in the car, or they hear daddy saying his boss is a retard. They hear it in movies and TV and no one seems to think a thing about it, after all, it is only a word...ridiculous that the PC police are getting all in an uproar about it, isn't it? NO, not to me it isn't. Words hurt, period.

It is not only a word to my husband and myself, it is a derogatory term that diminishes our three youngest girls humanity. That one word can be the difference between typical children accepting mine in an inclusive setting or laughing at them and making them feel left out and sad. I cannot count the number of times a mother led her children away from my girls saying "Leave them alone honey, they are different". I think the use of the R word in our culture contributes to that attitude.

When we make it OK to use the R word to say we feel less than graceful or when we make a mistake that embarrasses us, we are telling everyone with intellectual disability that they are less than perfect, and we see them as less than ourselves.

Think before you open your mouth, you never know who may be sitting across from you in the movie theater, or behind you in church or school, to you it is just a word, to them it is a dagger to their heart.

*S. 2781, the "Rosa's Law," which changes references in many Federal statutes that currently refer to "mental retardation" to refer, instead, to "intellectual disability"; and

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