R-Word Awareness Day highlights the mission of many allies and advocates of people with developmental disabilities in “spreading the word to end the word.”
And by that, it is meant to end the use of the word, “retard.”
I hosted blog hops for two years in a row. There are many, many outstanding posts on the page, and unfortunately, they don’t go out of style. Read them here.
Now, I’m going to be honest:
I think the word “retard” has morphed into something different. When young kids say it, I think that 9 times out of 10, they don’t relate it in any way, shape or form with a person with a developmental disability.
But even if the intent with most people is not at all related to developmental disability, I believe it is wrong to use it, simply because the original targets of the word – people with developmental disabilities – have asked the rest of us to not use it.
Their feelings about it are more important to me than proving some stupid point about semantics. They are the ones that get to decide whether or not we chuck the word, and they have decided.
This diagram says it all:
The word that rubs me raw now is the word, “special”
“Special” is the new “retard”
Because, unlike “retard” morphing into something else, “special” has not. It absolutely and directly means ‘person with a developmental disability.”
When people say, “oh, I feel so special”, they are saying that they feel like they have a developmental disability. It’s a punchy little twist on “special needs.” Use “special needs” interchangeably with “disability” as so many people incorrectly are these days, and “special” becomes short hand for “person with special needs.”
“You special person, you”.
Just another way to get a dig in at people – like my daughter – that society views as less than. It’s okay to make fun of them, right?
“puh-leeeeze, that’s so special.”
It’s supposed to be this funny little ditty on notes that people leave on windshields. See how it says, ‘don’t bring politics into it’, like the “special” part is understandable.
It’s okay to poke fun at people with developmental disabilities, we gotta get our kicks somehow, right?
Make these words as unacceptable as a racial pejorative.
Prove that you are an ally through your use of other words.
Prove that you have the decency and strength of spirit to stand up to others who say those words. They are not cool, they are not funny. They are cruel, hurtful, small-minded, mean-spirited.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.