When I was writing about what inspires us to do good in the world, I checked the Special Olympics International (SOI) website to make sure I was getting my terminology correct. When I worked there back in the early ’90s we said that a person “had mental retardation.” But I learned that the correct term now is a “person with intellectual disabilities” because the word “retardation” went from being a clinical description to a word of derision.
I also learned that SOI is spearheading a campaign to “End the R-Word.” Have you heard of this? Here’s how they describe the movement:
Spread the Word to End the Word™ is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International, and our supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools, organizations, and communities to rally and pledge their support at www.r-word.org and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities.
The R-word is INCORRECT
“When you say the ‘R’ word it makes people feel bad and it hurts my feelings and I don’t want to hear you guys say it. Instead, you can call me a leader, a hero, or a human being, but please don’t call me the ‘R’ word.” – Dony Knight, Special Olympics Oregon athlete
Sounds good to me. One of my kids called another kid the “R” word once and I nearly cried when I found out. Actually, I did cry. How could a child of mine say that? I worked at Special Olympics, for heaven’s sake. This child, who shall remain nameless, tearfully explained that he/she was just repeating back what another kid was saying, but it still shocked me. We talked about it and I truly believe X will never say it again.
Special Olympics is such a great organization. Why did I ever leave? Oh, yeah. I moved home to get married and finish school. At any rate, I was happy to see that Spirit is alive and well. When I started the magazine, who would have thought it would be entirely online one day? My baby’s all grown up.
So. Please spread the word to end the word.