Friday, October 12, 2012

The R Word: Educate Yourself

The words "retard" and "retarded" are hurtful words.  I never understood that before Sophia was born.  Does that make me a bad person because I've used those words before without even realizing what I was actually saying?  I don't think so.  I was ignorant to the fact that when I referred to something as being so "retarded" I was actually refering to something being limited or slow in mental development, but that's not what I was really saying.  I was really saying that something was stupid, or silly, but the word "retarded" doesn't mean silly or stupid, it means limited or slow in mental development. 

Sophia has an intellectual disability, which is the more appropriate term rather then mental retardation.  She is cognitively delayed.  It takes her longer to do things that typically developing children do with ease.  She has to work harder than a lot of other kids to accomplish the same goals and reach milestones.  Does that mean that she can't do things that other kids can do?  Hell no!  She can do anything that any other child can do, but she may have to practice longer and harder then another child in order to get there, and that's ok.  We all cross the finish line eventually, and who's to say that it's better being the first one across?  When you're going that fast, you are usually only focused on what is in front of you anyway.  Your whole mind set is glued to one thing, the finish line, and nothing else seems to matter.  But when you take your time to cross the finish line, you can really enjoy the process it took to get there.  And let me just tell you, that the harder you have to work to cross the finish line, the sweeter the victory is at the end!

After joining Facebook a few years ago and reading people's status updates, some of them that are very close to me and others that are just mere aquaintances, I've realized how uneducated a lot of people are about a lot of things.  And just for the record, I'm sure I can include myself on that list of posting things that I shouldn't have, but didn't realize it was hurtful to someone reading it.  Anyway, back to the point :)  I have read the words "retard" and "retarded" in several postings, either the person actually typed the words out themselves or they just posted a picture or saying from another site to their wall that contained those words.  And to see it right there in front of me, and to associate it with someone that I know and who knew me and the fact that I had a daughter with Down syndrome, killed me inside.  At first I let it go.  I didn't want to make a big deal out of something that wasn't intended to be hurtful and then possibly make things awkward the next time I saw that person face to face.  But then I decided I couldn't just sit there anymore and let people keep saying this word, becasue then I just felt like I was as much of the problem and they were.  So I decided to educate them on why that word was so hurtful to me, and the response I got back, from all 3 people, was AWESOME!  They apologized and removed the post from their wall.  They didn't know!  They were just like me before I had Sophia.  Even though they were grown adults, they didn't know that what they thought was just being funny, was actually hurtful to a lot of people.  I like to think that by me bringing it to their attention and explaining why it's not ok to use the R word, that they now make a conscious effort, both on Facebook and in their daily lives, to not use that word and to possibly correct other people that they may hear using it.   

I know that when topics like this are brought up, people think that they are being told that they can't say anything anymore without offending someone, but that's not true.  You can say a lot of things that aren't offensive, but the point is, this is all about RESPECT.  Respect for other people.  When you know that a certain word is hurtful, it is called being respectful not to use it.  And when you are finally educated about a word being hurtful, it  is also called being respectful to make a conscious effort to not use that word anymore.  So lets show some respect people.

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