Monday, March 18, 2013

Using the term "Mentally Retarded"

Last week I received an email from a new mother of a baby with DS who recently came across my blog. She was furious that the term "mentally retarded" had been used in this blog. She even went so far as to say, " use the term mentally RETARDED!!!??? Really there's no other word besides retarded that you can use!!!!!????? So fricking ignorant of you people. OUR children are not retarded..."

In my response to her, I said I was sorry that she was offended. I asked her to point out the articles on our site which refer to individuals with DS in a derogatory way with the term "mentally retarded", so I could change it.

But, I searched my blog and only found this term used in medical literature that is being discussed in posts on the blog. And also in one post where I discuss the concern over the use of the word "retard." I told her I don't believe my brother with DS is stupid, so she must've completely misunderstood and misread my blog.

The term "mentally retarded" is what is commonly used in medical literature as they are researching ways to help individuals with Down syndrome. To have them disregard this term, would be completely ridiculous. All this term means is that there is "mental slowness." The word "retard" means "slow." Is there something wrong with an individual being slow? Is there something wrong with an individual having "mental slowness"? I don't believe there is, therefore this word does not offend me, because it is the medical way to describe one of the conditions that Trisomy 21 causes.

Is there something to try to run from because your child is "mentally retarded"? In reading medical literature, you will run across the word "mentally retarded." I don't try to hide from this word, because my brother has Down syndrome. Let's face reality. He learns slower. He does some things slower. Big deal! 

There has been a movement, at least in the past, to try to ban the words "mentally retarded", "mental retardation", "retarded", etc from being used in medical literature. To ban these words is crazy, in my opinion, because these are words to describe a symptom. All sorts of conditions & genetic abnormalities have used these words at various times to describe something. This term is used even outside of the medical world to describe various ways things work. 

It seems to me that so many people are offended over this word where it is used because they don't want to face reality. Reality is that individuals with Down syndrome function a little slower than an individual without Down syndrome. Our society has made it such a bad thing and something that nobody wants. So, when a person is faced with the reality that they may have a child now that is going to do things at a slower pace, they try to push every aspect that may hint towards that off. 

But, really, it's not that big of a deal to have a child do things at a slower pace, or to learn things slower. I accept what God has given us and am thankful for it. The genetic anomalies that happen due to the third copy of Chromosome 21 in Down syndrome are not always pretty and those aspects I'd like to stop, or slow down. So, I do what I know is good and what I can to help stop those processes or to at least slow them down. 

Really, I'm thankful I have a brother who takes life a little slower. It's good for us :).

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Cindy said...

I've never admitted this on my blog, but I agree with you when it comes to the word 'retarded'. It should NEVER be used in a derogatory manner of course, but you're right, it means 'slow'.

The word itself has never offended me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%, Qadoshyah!
I think that the problem with the term lies within
the derogatory use of the word. The problem lies
with the intent to hurt others, not a medical and
proper use. I try to use the word with caution because of the sensitivity surrounding this issue.


Anonymous said...

Hi my name is crystal and I agree with you too. I don't see a problem with using the term Mental Retardation or Mentally Retarded as long as it's used in the proper way. I am a caregiver to a little girl with Down Syndrome and her mother always say's delays or delayed and and refuses to say it even in proper medical terms. I also have a disability myself, I have high functioning Autism and was recently diagnosed a few years ago at 31 years old. I honestly hate the negative ways the "R" word is used cause I was called it a lot as a kid in Special Ed. I have taken care of 8 kids and 1 adult with special needs ranging from mild to profound disabilities. And most of them have Mental retardation and it's not the end of the world. I think the reason people have an issue with it is because of society's bias and stigma toward anyone who is "different". I love your post and you are an awesome big sister! Keep up the good work.

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