I've been wanting to write about this particular topic for a while now, but wanted to wait until the perfect words came to me. I want to get my point across and I want it to make an impact. This is something very important to me and especially to my teacher heart.
Sometimes we use words without fully considering the meaning. We don't realize that using them in certain ways manipulates the meaning without getting it away from context and that this can cause a lot of hurt to people. Those of you who really know me know about my hate of "R" word, retard or retarded. I gave a speech on it last semester, in fact.
The word retard means (taken from dictionary.com)
verb (used with object)
to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.
verb (used without object)
to be delayed.
a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance, as in a machine.
a mentally retarded person.
a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard.
Now, notice #4. Slang:Disparaging. Well, what does disparaging mean?
to speak of or treat slightingly; depreciate; belittle: Do not disparage good manners.
to bring reproach or discredit upon; lower the estimation of: Your behavior will disparage the whole family.
I know that is all boring and technical, but I mention it to make a point. People generally use the word retarded in the slang form, connecting it to foolish, childish, or just plain stupid behavior. The problem is, this word is linked to individuals with special needs. So by saying that your friend is retarded when he does something stupid is like saying "You're acting like you have Down syndrome." or "Dude, you sound like you're autistic." And that is not alright.
I invite you to take a moment and think about your interactions with those who have special needs and how you felt, what you thought, when you were around them. Did you take pity? Think about how that person "will never be able to...fill in the blank" or did you look at them like you would any other person. Wonder what his/her hobbies are. Think about what job the person may have. Consider everything that person could or has accomplished in this life.
Naturally, we tend to look at them in pity. Look at their families in pity. But, do we consider that maybe pity is not what they're looking for, but acceptance?
Every person in this world has purpose and meaning. Maybe she has Down syndrome and has to work a little harder to learn something. So what?
Maybe he has Cerebral Palsy and drools and doesn't speak clearly.
Maybe he is autistic and doesn't always know how to communicate.
None of that changes purpose. Maybe if we took the time to look at these people as just that, people, like ourselves, we could see the wonder, magic, and possibility they bring to our world. Maybe we could see what they can teach us.
And THAT is why I hate the word retard or retarded... Because these people are not stupid. They learn differently, but that does not mean they are dumb and will amount to nothing. I will not use it in that way. I scold my friends and the children at work for using it.
I urge you to consider your words and how they affect others. Take the time to check out some blogs of families with members who have special needs to see that pity is not needed.