Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spread the Word.

What makes you laugh?

For the most part, we all know what our Facebook friends (or acquaintances, or friends-of-friends, or whoever you are connected with on Facebook) find funny.  "Joe liked this picture," etc., pops up on our newsfeed. Cute babies, dogs, graduations, a good lunch?  Cool.

When you click "like," you've shared the image with your friends on their newsfeed.

Well, what makes you laugh?

Funny memes?

And who do these funny memes target?

If the answer is any group of people, the laugh isn't worth it.

The number of times someone I know has liked something that has the word "r-tarded" or "r-tard" in it is huge.  I know.  I notice every single time.

I'm not friends with people who use racial slurs.  I'm not friends with people who engage in hate speech.  So I don't think any of my friends are the type of people who would set out to mock individuals with disabilities.  Individuals like Ellie.

But some do, although I believe unintentionally.  I try to say something when it happens.

Ellie is getting to the age where she notices and repeats.  She's getting to the age where the fact that she has Down syndrome is increasingly obvious.

Even if it's not directed at Ellie, you hurt her when you laugh at insults that include the word "r-tarded."

Even if it's not directed at Ellie, you hurt her when you laugh at your friends who use the word "r-tarded."

Speak up.

Ask people to change their language.

Does it make you uncomfortable?

That's okay.  Ask anyway.

You see, you might be a little bit uncomfortable.  But you might also save my daughter from having to hear one more person call a broken object "r-tarded," the same word that was once a medical term describing people with her genetic makeup.

Some things will always be hard for Ellie.  Learning is hard for her in general.  But other challenges she might face have nothing to do with her disability and everything to do with society.  If fine motor skills take Ellie longer to master, that's okay with me.  If being accepted by peers takes longer for Ellie because her peers don't give her a chance, that is not okay.  If other kids ask questions about why Ellie is so small/late to learn ___/hard to understand sometimes, that is normal. If other kids approach Ellie with prejudice, that is learned.

I make this plea every year.  Spread the word.  End the use of the r-word.

Even if you think speaking up is too hard.

Even if you think it doesn't matter.

Trust me.

Teach your kids.  Teach your students.  Teach your friends.

You matter to this girl.

For fantastic further reading:

This post from my friend Courtney about what you can do.  And this post from my friend Kelle about talking to your kids about special needs.

P.S. Check out my latest project with DonorsChoose.
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