By Kodey Toney
Sometimes Words Have Two Meanings
March 5th is the annual day of awareness to help “Spread the Word to End the Word”. The “r” word that is. Ok, I hate saying it, but for some of you who are wondering I’m talking about the word retarded, or retard. These are words just like slurs of yore that were used in a derogatory way to describe African Americans, Mexican Americans, Italian Americans, and other groups throughout history.
As I was doing some research for this column I decided to look back at one that I did two years ago so that I wouldn’t repeat information (which I will do). As I did I realized that I have learned so much since then. The first thing I noticed is my lack of people first language. If you’re not sure what this is Kathie Snow has some great information at http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/explore/people-first-language.
I also realized that one thing I put in this column was completely wrong, and I would like to address it so that I can set the record straight. I stated in that article that “most autistic kids are either oblivious or immune to the negative association with the word, or any other ‘teasing’ that may come from young kids.” Boy was I wrong. Not only do they hear it, they understand it, and it sinks deep into their being. It has been proven to haunt them throughout their lives.
So, what was I thinking when I wrote this nonsense? Well I was going off of the information that I had found by researching empathy and feelings. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t just believe everything you read on the internet. I’ve learned from that, but I also know more now because of listening to real people, and not just these so-called experts who run the clinical websites.
That brought me to the real experts. When I was researching some information for an upcoming event I’m working on I found many videos on YouTube about the R-Word. Almost all of them had interviews with people with disabilities, and each person was very emotional about the fact that they hate the word retarded. The sound of it sent rage, sadness, and tears through the individuals in each clip.
Nobody should be made to feel this way, especially not with words that first of all are used with the wrong meaning, and second are unnecessary in any way.
The following is from that same article I penned. I think it is just as important today as it was two years ago.
“Working at a college it’s not uncommon for me to hear someone say, “That’s retarded” as I walk across campus. It’s become a familiar phrase in American speech. Calling someone else retarded is commonplace with most of our younger generations. People spit it out without thinking about the negative connotations associated with it. It has even been used in the past to clinically describe people with mental illness.”
However, no matter how it’s used it should be found to be offensive.
The sad part is when the adults are the ones actually using the word and don’t even realize they are hurting anyone’s feelings. In fact, there are times when it is used because it has been accepted for so long to actually describe a disability.
I often hear people talk about the world being too politically correct. That’s not the problem though. As I stated a couple years ago, and I’ll say again today; “I call it humanely correct. What we are trying to do in this society, or should be as parents, is fight for equal rights. It is a civil-rights issue. With the rapidly increasing diagnosis of children with autism the issue of rights is going to grow.”
R-word.org has some great information, so I recommend checking it out. Read old articles at http://pervasiveparenting.blogspot.com/.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at email@example.com. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.