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Stop Using the R Word, People!

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I used to use the R word -- but now I've stopped. Can you, please?

Woman with tape on her mouth

Ellen S.: Today is the second-annual Spread the Word to End the Word Day -- an initiative of the Special Olympics. The goal: to get people to stop and think about the hurtful and disparaging use of the word "retard." People can take a pledge to quit here.

Confession: I'm the mom of a kid with special needs, and I've unthinkingly used this word -- even after my son was born. "That's retarded!" has slipped out of my mouth on a few occasions. On the post I just did on my blog, I also admitted to chanting it as kid to another kid who was slow. But with the rising awareness of how awful this word is, I've become more conscientious about it -- and I've cut it out of my vocabulary.

In the last 24 hours, a few things happened in the Twitterverse that made me aware of how pervasive the R-word issue is. As I wrote yesterday:

I was on my TweetDeck (that thing is addictive) and I spotted this tweet from a random teen: "Video chatting with girl who should be tested for special needs is tiring." I tweeted back, "DUDE. I'm parent of a kid w/special needs. NOT funny." His next tweet? "Omg I have just been tweeted at by an angry parent of a special needs child for referring to regan as a retard. She isn't really retarded!"

Um, dude? That was even more offensive.

Clearly, if my exchange with Twitterboy is any indication, we have a ways to go.

This morning, I woke up and saw this tweet from a teen girl: "Hey I applied for a job at a hospital for special needs kids but I need to have 18 hour with a retard, you wanna hang?"

But the clincher was this tweet directed to me from some random guy: "Being offended by the use of the word retard is a choice you make. Don't be so sensitive!!!!"

Deep. Sigh.

That's not the point. The word is demeaning, period. It makes people think less of those with intellectual disabilities, period.

Listen, I'm not deluded: The R word isn't just going to go away. Even if it were to miraculously evaporate, it doesn't mean that people will suddenly treat those with special needs a lot better. But making people think twice about using it can go a long way toward getting people to better understand -- and relate to -- those with disabilities.

What's your take on this? Have you heard people use the R word?

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
beth March 4, 2010, 10:49 AM

i do not use the word, i hate it.
i do not have a special needs child, i just do not ever think you should ever refer to anyone as not able to grow.
every day is end the word day for me, and has always been.

Socialstacy March 4, 2010, 11:40 AM

This article is great, we should all stop using the “r” word because it is so politically incorrect and it’s just plain rude! Have you had the chance to check out Pagerage? It’s a site that allows you to choose from so many background layouts for your Facebook page. It’s fast and so easy to use. Check it out!

Anonymous March 5, 2010, 6:53 AM

I don’t understand. The DSM-IV categorizes individuals with an IQ of 70 or below (plus other factors) as Mental Retardation. Yes, there is the less taboo acronym MR, but it is the name of the diagnosis, so why is it an issue. If you don’t like it, take it up with the members of the APA.

sayitloud March 9, 2010, 9:54 AM

WOW!!! How many times have the “N” word has been used? When THAT word stops being used, then the “R” word will also stop!!

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