I was going to shoot for a least a post a week and I have already gotten an F on that assignment. Nice. I have spent the past few days really thinking about the "R" word. Ellen from To The Max had posted a video on her blog that was then on CNN.com and it went from there. It was about the campaign against using the word "retard." Ellen received tons of comments and a vast majority of them were rude and some downright mean. The one that really sticks out to me is this, "retardation and other developmental disabilities are a burden to our health care system and our educational system." I think Ellen was right on when she said this person has much worse of a disability than our children- this person lacks a soul.
I must admit that I have not always been sensitive about the R word. In fact, growing up, it was a pretty normal part of my language. I did not understand how unkind it really was. It was not that I did not have people around me that were affected by the word. The little girl next door had severe cerebral palsy. I babysat her frequently and I loved that child. I just didn't get it. It wasn't until I met my husband that I understood what really was wrong with the word. My mother in law used to work for MHMR and she was finally able to get it through my thick skull why it was not OK to use the word as an adjective in the same manner that I might use the word big, little, or purple. There was always a ban on the R word in her house. I had trouble at first adhering to her no R word policy but as time went on it just fell out of my vocabulary. I am so thankful for that.
So I have really been going along thinking most people say the word just as I did- not ever meaning or realizing what they were doing. I was pretty happy to live in that little world. After reading the comments to Ellen's video on CNN I have been really saddened. It appears that people really are mean and cruel a lot of the time and do mean the word in the context like they used above. They see my child and other children like her as a burden to society. If you have ever met Anna you would see that she is anything but a burden. Is she a lot of work? You betcha. But you know I was always told that anything worth having would never be easy. My typically developing kids are a lot of work too and I don't consider them burdensome either. I wanted children. I love my children. The burden is not my children. The burden is dealing with close minded people who cannot see past a disability.
Some people with disabilities may have them so severely that do not understand what is being said to them or about them but the vast majority do understand. Anna does walk funny and runs funny and her speech is a little difficult to understand but she understands every bit of what is being said to her and about her. She even asked me one day ,"Momma, why my muscles not work right?" It broke my heart because it was my first realization that she knew she was different from other kids. She will face this all of her life and she does not need any help from anyone else to point out her differences- she lives with them.
So please, think about removing the word from your vocabulary. You may be one of those people without bad intentions but wouldn't it be nice if I and others in my position didn't have to decide which side of the fence you were on? We would know because the word just wouldn't even be in your vocabulary.