When I hear people use the term “retarded,” “retard,” or “‘tard” in any form in casual conversation and when I register it, it feels like a pinprick to my sensibilities. I used to try not to feel offended.

Years ago I worked with someone who tossed the word “retarded” around anytime she made an error or became annoyed by someone else. I took it in stride as an idiosyncrasy of hers. One day, she made an error or forgot something and instead said “Call me Corky,” something something…

Suddenly it was all different to me.

When she spoke of “retarded” she meant to demean a person with Down syndrome. Wait a minute. That’s not a casual disregard, that’s hurtful and wrong to me and to someone I love. That’s not cool.

In 1990 the definition of the word “retarded” meant delayed development. When Marcus was born I read in plain terms, “all children with Down syndrome are retarded.” My grandmother reminded me that in music retard means Slow and Beautiful. Still, that’s a hard label to feel stamped upon your son. I also read that this learning curve resulted in mild to moderate disability in most cases. And that many people with Down syndrome grow up to having normal IQ. I remember at the time I thought it was odd that a person could have a normal IQ and still be labeled retarded. But the designation comes in because of how they learn not what they learn.

And, to me, learning is still the key. So he learns slower, who cares? As long as he can learn.

Since then the word “retarded” has taken on an ugly life of its own.

BB-UCI-128x72Self-advocates are calling for it to be dropped from usage as it has turned from medical term to hate label. And think about it, when you say “retarded” in common conversation, what do you mean?

Answer yourself.

It’s time to drop the R word from casual conversation. It speaks to your respect for others. It’s time to drop the R word from government and school forms and documents. Words evolve, and their power ways negatively on those who are labeled. In March there is an annual day of awareness to end the word.  Take the pledge here.

This is a #TBT post, originally shared in March of 2013. This year’s pledge day is March 4th. Spread the word to end the word and see you there. 🙂

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