This post is especially for my readers who are not connected to the disability community.
Language matters. And March 7 is the day to "Spread the Word to End the Word."
You see, my daughter has Down syndrome. If you read this blog, you probably know that. If you've met my daughter and chatted with me for an extended period of time, you probably know that.
Ellie isn't old enough to understand how much language matters. But school age kids, teenagers, and adults with disabilities know when they are being insulted.
So don't say "r-tarded."
Just don't. It's mean.
I'm sure most people are creative enough to come up with an insult for their friends that is not a medical term describing thousands of people with cognitive disabilities. Because when people use "r-tarded" as an insult, they devalue my child. When the word "r-tarded" is used to describe anything seen as inferior, I hurt for Ellie. I hurt for the times she will automatically be discounted because she works harder than other people to learn things which come naturally to most kids.
"R-tarded" was used for many years as a clinical term to describe people with intellectual disabilities. People like Ellie. People like her friends with Down syndrome. The term has fallen out of use because it began being used as a generic insult.
I hope the word falls completely out of casual language. I have never heard the word "r-tarded" used in a positive manner. Unless you are a clinician discussing medical history, there's no need to use the "r-word."
Please, correct your friends gently when they use language that hurts. Please, don't use hurtful language yourself.
Don't say, "I'm not talking about Ellie." You are. I learned that my child would have a cognitive disability the same day I learned I'd have a little girl. That cognitive disability puts her into the category of "mild to moderate mental r-tardation."
Spread the word. End the word. For Ellie. For her friends.
And yeah, I blocked out the "r-word" from the text. The last thing I need is to be the result of cruel Google searches.