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Spread the Word to End the Word

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.

About shelley

Shelley Kramm is the founder and editor of I'm Still Standing and The DC Ladies. Learn more about her and her inspirational family here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and on

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  1. Very insightful. I've never heard of this campaign, what a great idea.

    Following you from SITs.

    Visit me at

  2. I don't think it is going to happen anytime soon.

    I use it and my wife doesn't like it. But, it just goes to show that the R word can fit anyone, not just a minority.

    Also, it is usually used towards one that has the choice not to be, instead of towards those that can't help it.

    We all have our sensitive spots.

  3. I am a member of that campaign too! I used the word until it hit home, you know what I mean. What an honor you were asked to speak about it.

    Also, I gave you a quick shout out on my blog. I just answered your question about my Jenny Craig experience.

  4. I find it offensive, I always have even when I was in my teens and it was 'THE' word the cool kids used. I hear a lot of people in their early twenties using it these days, teens that haven't quite grown up yet, sigh. I signed up for this back in February and took the pledge, but I wonder if it will get to the people that need to take the pledge! We can try:) Jen.

  5. I'm old enough to remember when it was used correctly and commonly by adults to refer to someone who had special needs. Then it started being tossed around by adults and kids alike to belittle anyone who did something stupid. Wasn't long before it became a derogatory term for special needs kids. In my family it was as unacceptable to use it as it was to say "shut up."

    Good luck with your campaign.

    Found this through SITS.

  6. In my country we have a saying oposite to that one: Tongue has no bones but it breaks bones.

  7. I love that! So glad that you found me so that I found you!



  8. Great post! I too have a very difficult time with the "R" word and a few others.. Words can hurt.
    Thank you.
    Love to you

  9. What an insightful post. Thanks for sharing. All the best with your campaign.

  10. Hi Shelley, giving a speech – WOW! But you are so right, many words should be eliminated. I don't think I use the 'R' word, but will listen to what I say!

    Thank you for visiting my blog recently. Did you know I am a Follower of this Blog? Only ask since I know, between all your GREAT Blogs, you have hundreds of Followers! That is a good thing, you inspire and educate.

    Best of luck on your weight loss challenge & exercise program. I'm inching up a few pounds myself. Better follow you more closely!

    Please let me know how you husbands drawing goes. I hope he keeps it up this time as I'm sure he is very talented with his background.

    Stay in touch,

  11. I hope your speech went well and you got through to some kids!

  12. You have made me more aware of the use of this word. I don't think I say it but now am attuned and will help pass the word.
    Found your blog from Melinda's tweet Tuesday and glad I did.Thanks for the insight.

  13. Hi Shelley! Thanks for visiting my blog today! I sent you an email … Great post … I think this is such an important issue. I hear it so much in my daughter's circle of friends (and unfortunately from my daughter about her hair, outfit, etc.). It's about re-educating. Great thing you are doing.

    Tweeting this post as part of my Tweet Me Tuesday today!

  14. What an honor!
    Yes unfortunately that word still continues to be around. I have heard it used so often on television and in movies so of course the younger generation will pick it up and continue to use it.

    Thanks for stopping by to say hello! Hope you and your family have been well. :o)

  15. Guilty!!!

    Thank you for the eye-opening post.

  16. Yes, I am always shocked when people still use that word. But, I am a school psychologist and used to be a special education teacher. People outside of education or the special needs world just aren't as aware of it sometimes.

  17. You are so right! The word should be used (in my humble opinion) for what is was originally meant for (as per your definition)…and if people can't use it for that they shouldn't use it at all. It goes back to what most moms taught us long ago "If you can't say something nice…"

    Tweeting it out for you! Thanks for linking up!

  18. Great article, idea, and words of encouragement to all of us for making a positive change in thoughts and attitudes. As a member of the Baby Boomers Generation, I've seen so many words that once were useful be turned upside down by various generations. I've even seen a few go back and forth – like COOL – its meanings have ranged from cold to great to cold to both. :) That word never hurt anyone, but there's several that, having been misused, have come to hurt others. It's so easy to stop saying words that have become hurtful to others, thereby showing kindness, courtesy and respect to all. Thank you for taking such a proactive step in this particular arena. I will definitely be tweeting this for Tweet Me Tuesday! :) #TMT

  19. I hope the assembly went well for you, and that the kids were receptive to your message.

    I very much agree that words can be just as powerful as actions, and we need to teach our kids to show respect for everyone, both through what they do, and what they say.

  20. I used to use that word when I was growing up..just joking around as kids do.

    Before my son was dx'd with Autism, the doctor mentioned "mental retardation". One of the neighborhood kids told my daughter, "Your brother is retarded". (and he was only 3yo!)Kids can be cruel! That word really hit home. He's not MR, he's Autistic. But regardless, it is a word that has a negative meaning, and I'd love to see it gone!


  21. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
    Shamrocks and Shenanigans

  22. I had never heard of that campaign before and I'm not sure something like that exists here in Spain (probably not). I hope your speach went well and you made some kids think. People can be so cruel at times… My oldest son also has "special needs", he was born with severe MAS and still suffers from some of the long time effects, he's 12 years old now.

    Thanks for the welcoming to MBC! I added myself to your followers.

    Bye bye!

    BLanca in Spain

  23. Thanks for stopping by Shelly! Hope you're having a great week!

  24. I had two sisters with CP (both passed away), a sister with Downs, and a brother who had an accident when he was little (perfectly fine now, but we heard this word a lot). I don't think people realize how bad that word can be :(

  25. Wow – what you said was wonderful! I totally agree! I'm from MBC.

  26. Stopping from MBC! What a great thing to talk about! I work with 3-5yr special needs kids and I absolutely LOVE it! I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  27. I think part of the problem is that people don't have a good vocabulary anymore to say what they are really talking about.