Last week I was asked to come into my daughter’s high school to speak at an assembly “To spread the Word to End the Word.” I was honored that the President of the schools Best Buddies chapter had asked me to come and address the students on this topic.

I spent a day or so organizing my thoughts as I often do when I give a speech but this time it was going to be a little different because I knew my daughter was going to be in the assembly itself while I was speaking along with some of her classmates, and the regular student body.

I have very strong thoughts on this topic, the “R” word and the negative connotation which it holds to me as a parent of a special needs child.

When I was young I heard that word get thrown around alot. It used to offend me a little bit then, not sure why, maybe the stars above were aligning themselves and wanted to hear and see how I reacted.

Retarded” it just sounds so belittling! “What are you retarded?” Seriously, I have heard children and adults say this to each other still today and I see it as a “slap” in the face, a put down and it is what I call a garbage term.

The actual definition of retarded is “To cause to move or proceed slowly; delay or impede.”

I used these examples in my speech of times I have overheard teens use the term:

Let’s say you show up at the mall in a polka dot shirt and stripe pants and your girlfriends are all giggly and look at you and ask, “What are you wearing? That looks retarded!” Personally you might like the outfit, it might be in bad taste but it is not “retarded”

Or, let’s say you are a high school football player and you just got your schedule for next year and instead of getting your choice of “weight lifting” for your first period somehow you were placed in Chorus. You exclaim, “What, this schedule is retarded!” Well unless you are on the current hit show Glee where it might not be an error but none the less the schedule is not “retarded.”

By using that term it reinforces the discrimination and intolerance children like my daughter face every day.

When we were all little we heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never heart you,” well that is just not true, names do hurt and it is time to “remove and retire” the “r” word from everyone’s vocabulary.

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