20-some-odd years ago, I grew up in a little, tiny town. Everyone knew each other, and their business. Sometimes, this life was endearing. Other times, it was infuriating.
I grew up in a time where throwing around the word “retard” didn’t phase any of us. “Dude, you’re such a retard!” It meant something close to “meaningless.”
I told people they were meaningless?
I told someone’s child they were meaningless? I am embarrassed to say that word was part of my standard fare of language. I did not realize how I was probably hurting some Mother’s heart. For that, I am extremely sorry.
6 and a half years ago, we brought Jack home and covered him in love. We had no idea the kind of road we would travel. Diagnoses, testing, waiting, bad news… However, my child is not meaningless. He means the world to me. To my family. To our extended family.
When Jack was 12 months old, he started speech therapy. His therapist used to tell him to “use his words” when he would only make noises. He would babble something that made no intelligible sense, and we would cheer! He chose to try to use the few skills he had to make something other than a noise.
If my kid, who has more diagnoses than he has fingers, can find the ability to use a new word, why can’t we find a better word to use than “retard” or “retarded?”
As a society, we have devalued the human race on many fronts. We have taught our children to say things that hurt without caring. We have shown our children, through our own actions, how to not care about others. We have become too involved in ourselves and missed out on the fellowship of others, regardless of their intellectual levels. We bully. We shame. We stigmatize. This is not acceptable.
We need to change.