Before Ruby was born, I never even thought twice about using the word “retard” or “retarded” to describe people and things that I thought were stupid. I wasn’t using it to make fun of people with special needs, but I also didn’t consider how my use of the word might hurt those around me. When I was thrust into the world of special needs parenting, it became crystal clear to me exactly how much damage I’d been doing by using the r-word. I felt ashamed.
I am fortunate that I haven’t yet felt the pain that comes from someone calling Ruby the r-word. But I can’t even tell you how many of my friends and colleagues say the r-word without hesitation around me. I’ve also been subjected to many “short bus” jokes that are anything but funny. Despite the pain that I feel when these comments are made, I truly believe that they’re not saying it to hurt me or anyone else with special needs. I don’t think they realize that the word they’re using as slang degrades my daughter and thousands of other people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Today, on Spread the Word to End the Word day, I made a pledge not to use the r-word. I hope you will pledge not to use the r-word, too. And make sure to check out the links below to some really amazing blog posts on this topic. Visit www.r-word.org for more information on Spread the Word to End the Word.
Uncommon Sense: The word “retarded” is not cool
Love that Max: If you ask people not to not use the word “retard”
Attack of the Redneck Mommy: Hear My Battle Cry
J.C. Wert: The retard in the next booth
Huffington Post: Bullying Revisted: Retarded?