Just don’t say the R-Word OK?

Student 1: “I worked so hard on that paper, I really thought I would get a better grade. I feel like a retard.”

Student 2: “Oh don’t say that, you’re not a retard. Your teacher is the one who is retarded! She should have seen how hard you worked on that.”

Then they giggle and walk down the hall, going about their days.

What they don’t realize is that while they were walking, they passed a student with special needs. Of course, they would never say the ‘R’ word to that student’s face, but this is almost as impactful as that would be.

When the phrase “mentally retarded” was introduced, it was a medical term for people who had developmental disabilities.

This has evolved into a slang word to insult people. The people who use the word retard do not understand how it can impact a person who has struggled their entire lives.

This world does not slow down for people with special needs. They are expected to adjust to societal norms and fit into a way of life that may be difficult for them.

Being taunted and ridiculed is the last thing a person needs to deal with.

The Special Olympics website has started a pledge, and a blog, against using the ‘R’ word. People from all over have gathered together to share the reasons they do not use the word.

“When ‘retard’ and ‘retarded’ are used as synonyms for ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity,” an anonymous blogger said.

Honestly, it must be true that anyone who has used the word has never seen how it impacts those with special needs. Seeing the look on my brother’s face coming home from school when we were little stopped me in my tracks.

My brother, Tanner Dow, is autistic. He has trouble picking up on social cues and he may not be able to ever live on his own, but he is an inspiration to people everywhere. He is the most genuine person I know, and I know that he would never hurt anyone.

To know that some people still use the one word that could crush his soul is heartbreaking to me.

When writing an editorial, it is advised that the writer give both sides of the argument. But you know what?

There is no other side on this issue.

There is no excuse to use a word that can tear the hearts out of some of the nicest and smartest people to walk this planet.

So maybe next time you catch yourself using that word, picture my brother. A happy go-lucky guy who sees the best in people.

Let him see the best in you.

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