Education Family & Culture

A Vocabulary Change For the Better

By Mami Raquel

I have been pondering ways to broach this subject for weeks now. It’s a topic that should be discussed for several reasons, most importantly so that awareness is created on how offensive this one word can be to someone.  What brought me to finally discuss it? When I heard a 10-year-old call his brother retarded when he mentioned he forgot how to tie his shoes. My initial reaction to the comment was shock and disbelief that such a young boy would be using such a strong word, especially towards his brother. I immediately jumped and pulled the 10-year-old boy to the side and asked him what he meant by that and his response is what drives me to write this post today.

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Raquel

Raquel is wifey to her high school sweetheart & a stay at home mommie to 2 beautiful divas, She is completely devoted to her “lil’ familia” and enjoys quiet evenings at home. Some of her favorite past times includes listening to music, cooking and couponing. Raquel has a Master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy. She is very passionate about her profession and thoroughly enjoys making a difference in people’s lives. Make sure to check out Raquel’s blog for your dose of krayzeeness at www.krayzeemommie.com

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1 COMMENT

  • lisa

    I would like to thank you for raising awareness and discussing this topic. As a parent of a child with special needs, I too have noticed how loosely the term is used by many (young or old, rich or poor, and most surprisingly from the uneducated to the highly educated). My first son, who we call Jojo, was born with Down’s syndrome and has also been diagnosed as having an intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation).
    I must admit that prior to Jojo’s arrival, I was guilty of using the word loosely and sometimes even excessively. That all changed four years ago when he was born. The term took on a whole new meaning. Every time I heard the “r” word my stomach would turn. I would think to myself, “What’s wrong with them? How can they be so insensitive? Don’t they know about Jojo? Don’t they realize they’re offending me?” Then one night, while Jojo was a newborn, I was extremely shocked when I heard my husband use the word with a friend. That evening I questioned why he chose that word and shared my feelings. I explained that we were blessed with this special child for a reason and one of our jobs was to educate others about his differences. I went on by saying that despite frequent use of the word, it was improper for us to use the “r” word loosely and instead we should set an example for others and select more appropriate vocabulary. He agreed and even helped me realize that people aren’t trying to be hurtful, they just might be ignorant about the word’s meaning because it’s not personal to them.
    Since that night, we’ve both refrained from using the “r” word. In fact, my husband who teaches middle school has been trying to teach his students to do the same. Upon first hearing them use it in class, he explains how that word is inappropriate and disrespectful to others, especially if they are or know someone who is delayed. I’m impressed that he usually explains himself once with each class and then the students repeat the conversation with each other when necessary. He often over hears them saying, “Oooh! Don’t use that word. Mr. B gets super offended. Use another word.”
    I’ve learned not to take it so personal when I hear the “r” word. After noticing how loosely the term is used by all sorts of people (teenagers, college students, teachers, school administrators, psychologists, even doctors) I’ve realized that those who’ve made it part of their vocabulary are ignorant of the word’s meaning and how it’s received by those who have a personal connection to the word. Being that I avoid confrontation whenever possible, I usually don’t say anything when someone I’m not too comfortable with uses the word. However, I have shared my feelings with many relatives, friends, and colleagues. They usually end up feeling embarrassed and remorseful which really weren’t my intentions but it makes me realize that they understand where I’m coming from. Although hearing the word doesn’t bother me as much as it did initially, it doesn’t mean I accept it and didn’t wish it was eliminated altogether.
    As far as what can be done to minimize the use of this word, I feel the best way is through personal accounts from those who are offended/bothered by the term. Just like my husband’s students don’t repeat the word in his class neither have any of the people I’ve expressed my opinion with. The earlier children learn this lesson, the more likely they are to remember it for the rest of their lives and hopefully teach their own children. Another way to increase awareness is by having your children volunteer and/or participate in activities and organizations which support people with special needs. Often children/people don’t know anyone who is delayed. Therefore, they aren’t aware of how they struggle to learn. They haven’t been afforded the opportunity to form a bond and get to know someone with learning disabilities. I’m sure if they did they would have a whole different outlook and be more sensitive. I know I did thanks to Jojo.
    There’s no doubt Jojo has difficulty learning, that it takes him MUCH longer to learn than other children his age. Nonetheless, he’s a child who will one day become a man and most likely continue to struggle as he learns. My husband and I would like to know that when we leave him behind he will be living in a society which admires him rather than mocks him, who accepts him and understands his challenges, and who is even inspired by him.

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