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Why the R Word Offends Me | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Why the R Word Offends Me

IMG_3249photo © 2010 Karen Frederick | more info (via: Wylio)
Using the R word (“retarded”) to make fun of someone or something in front of me is the equivalent of waving a flag in front of a bull. When someone uses it that way, my perception of that person immediately changes in a bad way.  Why?

Children and adults with Down Syndrome have always been a huge part of my life. They have taught me lessons of  love, joy, and living in the moment. They have enriched their family’s lives beyond measure. How have they done so?

  • The youngest son of my favorite babysitter stayed home and did the outdoor yardwork that enabled his parents to spend at least 10 more years on the family farm before they went into a nursing home.
  • One of my middle school speech students moved a room of 200 adults to tears at the class’s final speech night when she gave an oral interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) which included sign language.
  • The late son of another friend shared his love of music, Jesus, and Aces basketball with everyone he ever met.
  • Another friend, a high school student, dances ballet and found a job as a restaurant greeter as soon as he turned 16.

Most of all, there was my first daughter who died before she was born. Afterwards, she was diagnosed with anencephaly and Down syndrome, a rare combination.

When my children were little and played on playgrounds, I used to look at the 3rd swing, the empty swing, and wonder how our lives would be different today. I still miss her. Each time one of my friends with Down syndrome gives me a hug I feel a tug in my heart for the daughter I never got to hold. Nothing would have saved her. She did not suffer.

There is little if anything I can do for her or to honor her. The one thing I can do is urge people, and especially parents to stop using the R word to make fun of others. And to urge them to teach children how offensive that word is.  They may not realize how many others there are like me who hear them use that term and immediately think of them in a different, less flattering way.

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