Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Dreaded “R” Word

Hmmmmm…  I have never posted about the word “retarded” and what it means or represents to me.  So I figured it is about time that I give my opinion on the subject.

About 5 years ago, I attended a meeting of our local ARC.  As I walked into the room, it was filled with older people and I felt a bit out of place.  I was welcomed with open arms and before the meeting I chatted with the only couple in the room that I knew.  The president called the meeting to order and we sat down and began.  I, and another gal from our support group, were guests so that was the first order of business.  We both introduced ourselves and talked briefly about our families and what had brought us there.  They each went around the room and told their stories as well.  Most of the families had children who were no longer children, but adults with disabilities.  Some lived at home, some lived at group homes, but most of their children were older than me. 

We got to one lady in particular….quite possibly the oldest woman in the room ( I was guessing around 70 or 75).  She started off my saying “Hi my name is M and I have a retarded daughter…..”  I was not sure what the rest of her story consisted of because just like you, my jaw dropped and I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.  I couldn’t believe that this woman would refer to her beautiful adult daughter this way.  There was a big part of me that wanted to get up from my chair and leave..never to return.  But I bit my tongue and decided she was the most ignorant person that I had ever met!  I mean seriously, who refers to their child like that…. certainly I never would!  There was another part of me that wanted to cry!  I felt like …what was she doing here if she thought of her daughter that way???

Fast forward to a few months later and we were planning our first Buddy Walk with The ARC.  It was myself and three other women from the ARC working on something or another.  M was not there and the rest of us got to talking and someone else referred to the “r” word and this time I couldn’t hold my tongue.  I asked WHY in the world would you refer to your child or another human being as being “retarded”  I just didn’t get it.  People had worked and fought for so long for people with different abilities to be included in society and the very people who were advocating for these changes and wanted them were doing such a disservice to the same group of people.

It was then that one of the women spoke up.  Remember all these women were definitely over 50 and mostly over the age of 60 or 65!  She told me that when they had their children 30 and 40 years ago, their children were referred to as “mongoloid” and they were told to give them up and never look back.  Some did…they didn’t!  It was those people who started the movement to include their children in society and wouldn’t “hide” them away in their homes or in institutions.  When the new PC term “retarded” was given to their kids, they felt like it was a victory over the word “mongoloid”.   They felt like times were getting better and this was a step in the right direction. 

I guess what I am trying to say is that there are people that now don’t like the word special needs or disability, and at some point in the future, these words might be degrading to our kids just as the word retarded is now.  I definitely DO NOT condone the use of the word, but it was nice to get a perspective of a mother who fought tooth and nail for her child to be a productive member of society and what we think of now as a derogatory word as a “triumph” for them!


Molly said...

thats really fascinating!!! I never would have thought of that, but it makes a lot of sense!

datri said...

Interesting perspective. You know that federal legislation where they are going to replace the R word with "intellectual disability"? I wonder then if the R word would then end up to eventually be non-offensive like the words "moron" or "idiot" (once medical terms).