Being in the special needs community for almost 8 years now, I am fully aware of all the 'Politically Correct' lingo that should be used. You know, you say "a child with Down syndrome", not a "Down syndrome child." And there are also certain words which just are not supposed to be said, the word "retard" being at the top of the list.
It took some getting used to for me, because my family has never been very "politically correct" :).
Over the years I've seen the issues that come up when certain popular individuals use the "R" word, when someone who has a child with DS has a friend say this word in a conversation, or when it's use is discussed on a forum. I've never said much about it, because I think a lot of people will have a problem with my view on it.
Last week though, Ann Coulter called President Obama a "retard" on Twitter. There has been a ton of outrage over her use of the "R" word. So, I feel it's time that I say something. I fully expect people to disagree with me, but I'm completely fine with that.
First and foremost, the First Amendment to the Constitution gives us, as Americans, freedom of speech. We should all have the freedom to use whatever words we want to. If someone is offended by a word, then apologize. But it should not be turned into this national campaign to "ban" the use of certain words. That's simply against the first amendment.
When people go on "campaigns" to stop the use of a word, promote "gay rights", advocate for "women's rights", etc, it becomes something that is part of the problem that our nation is in - people thinking that government is the answer.
Besides the above reasons as to why the "R" word should not be an issue, let's look at a little more technical things.
What is the definition of the word "retard"? According to Merriam-Websters it is:
to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.
When I think of this word, I think of it's true meaning. Just like the medical books will use it for "retarded growth" (slow growth) or "mental retardation" (slow mental development).
I wonder if people who have children with Down syndrome get so upset about the use of this word, because they don't want to accept the fact that their child with Down syndrome does learn at a slower level? Or often times do grow/mature at a slower rate? I know full well that my brother, O, learns at a much slower pace than his twin sister who does not have DS. Is there something bad about that? No, not at all.
Another way people explain this word is that it refers to individuals with a lower I.Q. This again brings me to the point above. If my brother has a lower I.Q., does it matter? No, it doesn't. Just because someone may have a lower I.Q. does not mean they are stupid.
I've often heard that if someone says the word "retard," they are insulting your child or loved one with DS because they are calling them "stupid" or "worthless." You know what, I don't think so. I don't view my brother with DS as "stupid" or "worthless," so I don't even equate that to him. Just because someone uses this word that has been used in correlation with special needs in a way other than the proper use, does not mean they are "putting down" someone with special needs.
Not that I am defending Ann Coulter here at all, but I think she brought up an interesting point when she was discussing this on the Piers Morgan show. I have no problem with the word "retard" being used with the definition above. Languages do change though, so *if* the word does not mean the above definition (I'm not saying it does), and society has changed it to meaning "loser", then let go of the word. It's not applying to your child. It's being applied to something totally different!
There's been a few times over the years that I or my family have encountered someone using the "R" word in their conversation with us. What do we do with it? Do we get all angry or tweaked out about it? No, we use it as a chance to educate them. We make it a light thing, because I don't want them to feel bad for using the word around me, because it doesn't offend me. We tell them it does offend a lot of people. And we also tell them the actual meaning of the word (slow) and how it's not really that bad of a thing.
Do I go around saying the word all the time? No, because I know it causes great offense in the special needs community.
My brother is not stupid. He's a smart little guy, even though he may have a lower I.Q. (could care less about I.Q. tests though) or learn things at a slower rate.
Bottom line though, I think people need to be less sensitive. It's simply a word. When people read into the motives as to why an individual would use a certain word (to hurt the special needs community), it gets us into all sorts of problems.
Let the word go. Don't let it offend you. Educate people.