This Wednesday, March 6, 2013, marks the annual activation day for the Spread The Word To End The Word campaign. Not sure what I’m talking about? Then please, pretty please, come here!
Last year was the first time in my life I had ever really dissected the word “retard” (my heart just hurt a little bit having to type that) and all its variables when I wrote my post called “The R-word.” I never acknowledged a reason to analyze the word ever before.
As many know, it is used as a form of slang. Sometimes, it’s used with the intention to harm someone’s feelings. Other times, it’s just used without the thought of how it might offend someone.
Plenty of times, people have said it around me since Tessa was born. And almost every time that someone realizes what they said, I get, “Oh I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…” Let’s face it, then the scenario is just awkward. Usually I will just smile and say it’s fine. Sometimes I ask that they choose better words. A small percentage of the time, I try to determine if I am more offended that the person thinks I should be offended by their use of the word…because I certainly do not believe that Tessa is “retarded” by any means. All in all, it hurts the same. And I fear that some day she will come home with tears in her eyes and tell me that someone said it to her. And I will have to explain to her that she is much bigger than the pain that word will bring.
There are people that have gladly labeled parents like me as “over sensitive.” Some people say we should chill the F out because it is just a word. As much as I have wanted to label them as insensitive, I just call it thoughtless. To them, it is only a word. To me, to my daughter, and to the many, many others who love someone with special needs or who have special needs it is so much more. So if it is simply “just a word,” then I encourage everyone to please just choose another one.
Because I know what it implies when it is used. It devalues everything that makes my daughter who she is. Let me say that I can sum up the last eighteen months of my daughter’s life like this: There are few who can appreciate the shakiness in her knees as she stands along the couch, the determination in her eyes as she tries to pull herself up, the frustration in her cry when I cannot figure out what she needs, the beauty in her differences. Few can understand how hard the smallest of tasks can be, how huge it is when she learns a new sign or says a word, the tears and the questions of her parents, the doctors appointments, and every terrifying moment, or the overwhelming feeling of joy she brings us every single day. Only a few know, understand, and fully appreciate the struggles that she endures and how hard she works to overcome them. Because they know and I know what it means to watch our loved ones work incredibly hard to adapt and overcome their circumstances.
Yet a word like “retard” is rooted back to someone who is differently-abled? People with special needs, like Tessa, have been pushed harder than almost all of their typical peers. So I ask that people use words that won’t shatter how hard my daughter–and countless others–strives to have a normal life.
This Wednesday, March 6, 2013, take the pledge and stand by it. Help Spread The Word. I cannot tell anyone what to do or what to say. I certainly cannot abolish the word’s existence. I can only ask that people consider a more positive choice of words. By doing so, we can celebrate the achievements of those who are differently-abled, instead of demeaning their potential.
www.R-word.org Stand up for Tessa or for someone you love.
Thank you 🙂