Thursday, December 02, 2010

Community Advocacy - Even More Vital

We have dealt with the word retarded before here. It is a slang that I think is quite misunderstood and misused.

I don't know whether it is the tough economic times or something else but I seem to be observing more and more attitudes about people who experience disabilities. I don't think I have ever heard the word "retarded" more.

Getting angry, while probably justified, is not working. We try to educate whenever possible. Here is an example of an incident that Billy Ray and I experienced recently.

A mother and two teenagers were within maybe a foot of Billy Ray when she uttered the R word. I do not think she was specificially referring to Billy Ray but he certainly picked up on the word. I took him by the hand and walked up to them. First I asked permission of the mother to talk to her daughter. Then I introduced Billy Ray to her. I asked her if she knew what the word retarded actually meant and she said no. I explained that it only meant slow and that while Billy Ray and I are both slow in certain areas it is probable that his strength in some area exceeded her strength in that area. She was truly embarrassed, apologizing a lot. I told her I didn't want that but I wanted her to stop and think so it stops at her generation not being passed down for future generations. She seemed more likely to remember the situation and alter her behavior than if there had been an angry blow up.

By helping the community to know our kids as they are instead of sterotypes,hopefully, we create deeper understanding and acceptance.

Advocacy must educate to achieve desirable results. It is taken me years to see that instead of blowing up.

Until next time,
Peggy Lou Morgan


MicroSourcing said...

'Retarded' is politically incorrect. While we can educate our kids, sometimes they still do get exposed to people who may not be as sensitive. Vigilance is necessary.

Erica said...

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Lora said...

It is nice to see you blog again I have missed seeing your posts. I admire the manner in which you approached this young girl and her mother, it was necessary to do. It is a shame how often the R word is used these days so carelessly.

Anonymous said...

I also have a child with an intellectual developmental disability, referred to in the past as mental retardation. I don't mind the word mental retardation as a medical term to explain my child's disability. I don't mind the medical term obese to describe her weight problem. But these are medical terms, best used in medical discussions.

Words usage evolves over time and each generation has had its words for intellectual developmental disabilities. Idiot, moron and imbecile are examples of past terms used to identify this condition. Retardation is now joining the ranks of obsolete terms because it no longer describes a medical condition, but more often a verbal "put down".
Where will it stop? Will we need to continually change terms? Or is the bigger problem that we classify people at all, separate them, and label them? I don't mind saying my daughter has Down syndrome (again a medical term), but I cringe when someone says she is a "Downs kid"--as if she's not quite human.

I like the vision of universal learning and universal design. Humanity is rich and varied. People are just people and inside we're the same.

VMI said...

I wrote about the R word too. I like how you handled this situation - direct but without an angry blow-up.

Here's the post I wrote:

HOPELights said...

We live in a strange time that seems to only get stranger. Sometimes ignorance pokes its ugly head during these times.

Unknown said...

As parents of special needs kids, one of our primary roles is to educate our communities where ever we go. Thanks for the nice article. Best to your and your family.

Marla Murasko said...

I came across this situation where the "R" word was used 4 times amongst three women during a fundraising event I was working with them.

I know they were not aware of what they were saying or how it was starting to bother me as I have a developmentally disabled child. They were referring to the work that they were doing was "retarded" and "this is retarded."

I was needless to say very upset, but I didn't say anything just for the shear fact that I knew that no matter what I said to these ladies they wouldn't care, because it didn't effect them personally so why would it matter to them.

I know that was not the best way to handle this situation by being quiet, but it was honestly the first time in 5 years I have been subjected to this ignorant behavior, and honestly I wasn't quite sure how to handle it.

Now in discussions with others I realized I should have politely asked them to use another word, that I didn't feel that word was appropriate and I know this now, but I was surprised at the number of times they used it within the 3 hours I was with them.

It's just really ashame that people use this word so freely.