Being Retarded

23 Dec

All around me, people use the word retarded without a second thought.  Sometimes, I’ll say “Um, dude, really?” and they’ll say “Oops, my bad!  But really!  I was being so retarded!”

Sometimes, I let it slide.  I realize that it’s a word that’s ingrained in our society’s vocabulary and people use it without a second thought to its meaning.

But what does it mean to be retarded?  Well, I know what it doesn’t mean.

It doesn’t mean not being able to choose something for lunch despite 100 choices in front of you.

It doesn’t mean not being able to find your car keys.

It doesn’t mean saying the wrong thing to a person.

It doesn’t mean forgetting your best friend’s birthday.

It’s not something to describe yourself as when you’ve spilled your coffee, or tripped on a crack in the sidewalk.

It’s not something to describe your computer, car or phone.

According to  Merriam-Webster Dictionary  the word “retarded” means –

: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress

For me, it’s not just any old word – it’s my daughter.  My beautiful, bright, happy, loving, amazing daughter who is slow or limited in intellectual development and academic progress.

In our household, being retarded means something different.

It means not being able to fully care for yourself.

It means not understanding what the doctor is going to do to you.

It means not being able to explain what hurts when something hurts.

It means not being able to ride a two wheeler.  Or read.  Or ever be able to live on your own.

But ever the optimist, I also know that  in our household retarded means…

…never realizing the negativity behind the word retarded.

…never knowing the insensitivity surrounded the word’s usage.

…never realizing the ignorance of people.

…never knowing how other people view you.

Being retarded also means…

…loving unconditionally.

…finding joy in the smallest of things.

…being self-confident.

…not realizing that there are limitations.


 This is Maura.  Her diagnosis?  Cognitively disabled.  Which means retarded.  When you call yourself retarded, you’re also calling my child stupid.  Because you use the word as just that – another form of stupid.

Let’s get something straight here.

My daughter may have cognitive issues.  She may have delays.  She may never live on her own.  Scratch that.  She will never live on her own.

But Maura is not stupid.

In her own way, Maura is very smart.  Maybe smarter than us at times.  She has more self-confidence than anyone I know who’s called themselves “retarded”.  She is the best judge of a person’s character than anyone else I’ve ever known.

Yes, she is slow to learn things.  But she is not stupid.

I know that most people don’t use the word “retarded” maliciously.  Most people I know use it in a self-depreciating way.  And when I point it out, they go “Oh wow!  I’m sorry!” and they truly feel like a heel. But the thing is, you’re still using it in the way that people who do use it maliciously use it as – to describe stupidity.

So why not just use the word “stupid” instead?  Because I know what “retarded” is.  I live with it in the form of my daughter.  And in our world “retarded” doesn’t equate to “stupid”.

5 January 2012 – feel free to read this companion post, which helps explain more of the “behind the scenes” view of this post – thanks!

14 January 2012 – I’ve added a page all about Maura, for those who want to know more about her.


478 Responses to “Being Retarded”

  1. Anna December 23, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I love you! This is a word that’s in my vocabulary in the way you described. It’s from before I met the divas & was properly exposed & enlightened. I am working HARD to use it correctly only. THANK you for this, I need to have these kind of reminders.

    • vickycarrie9800 January 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

      AWSOME!! I am also sharing this blog with everyone I know and I LOVE IT!!!!

      My word that we use to others conserning our daughter Jessica is “Challanged.” And in life we a;; are challanged in our own ways! I love this post and the great postive spin it has! Thanks so much for this one!

    • Kim January 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

      Thank you Pheobe but also thank you Anna. For saying so eloquently exactly the way I feel. I too will be working HARD.
      much love

    • carol January 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      I work in the cognitively mental health faility and have been in this field x 8 years, I am an LPN and I truly understand your emotions and feelings. I deal with this issue in my own home because my husband and some other members of my family do not understand the pain of this stigma in life. The members I care for are not stupid but loving, intelligent in their goings on in their life, willing, and most importantly, they ARE PEOPLE WITH EMOTIONS.

    • Lea Keating January 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      Beautiful. Beautiful sentiment and BEAUTIFUL lovely Maura. thank you.

    • Sheri June 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      Maura, is beautiful!!!!

  2. Elizabeth Vermilyea December 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Amazing, beautiful, re-posting!

  3. melanie December 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    thank you for your post. every year, the high school i work at runs a campaign to end the use of the “r” word. it is a huge campaign where students and staff sign a pledge to say that they will stop using the word retarded incorrectly. it’s called “spread the word to end the world”. i know there is a national campaign as well…i am proud of our students for doing this…and i have personally seen students correcting each other when they use the word to refer to something stupid they have done. i can only hope that this next generation will grow to be more sensitive to the true power of words. our tv students made a spa you might like to see…

    merry christmas. you have a beautiful family and are truly blessed!

  4. Rhea December 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Dear Momma of that beautiful little girl,

    I have fought the use of the “r” word in my section of the world for years. Ask my kids, friends of my kids and anyone else in my sphere. It is not acceptable because it’s not about whether it’s a noun or not it’s about that it is used in a derogatory fashion. It is meant to lessen the value of people who have mental disabilities. It’s never been about being “PC” it’s about respecting people.

  5. Lea December 25, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. As a special education teacher, I fully appreciate the awareness that you are highlighting. You are right…we need to focus on the strengths and not the limitations they may have in this world. I have never taught a child with mental retardation that was self absorbed, inconsiderate, or hateful. The children I know are gifts from God, to teach me how to love unconditionally, trust relentlessly, value friends and family more than material items, and forgive the ignorance of peers who choose to degrade them because they are different. In this world, they have to work so hard to achieve the scholastic recognition, yet the things that matter the most come easy to them. They are gifted in those ways, and teach many of us to focus on the important things in life. Thank you for standing up for God’s gifts!

    • JUdy Farrish December 30, 2011 at 5:19 am #

      I also am a special ed teacher and totally agree with and thank u<3

    • ally January 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      lea, what you said was so beautiful. my little brother (15 on saturday!) has autism and i really hope his teacher feels the same way that you do. your students are lucky to have you. xoxo

    • Penny Watts November 21, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

      I totally agree. My 10 year old adopted son has Kernicterus ( Cerebral Palsy and all organ damage due to post natal jaundice) and is Special Needs.
      He is the sweetest, kindest person on the whole world. Sad to say he realises he is special needs but does not appreciate that there may be life goals he may not achieve.
      He talks of when he grows up and drives a car, and when he gets married how he wants his wife to learn how to cook like me. Because of his condition, he may never drive or marry.
      This breaks my heart.

  6. Theresa December 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Beautiful blog post. As a woman who grew up with a mentally retarded adult aunt and the wife of a special education teacher, you really touched my heart. I read it to my Husband too and am recommending he share it with some of his colleagues because I think they sometimes become callous to the heart realities of the life you live with. From your post and description of your daughter I can tell that she is growing up in an amazing LOVING environment. For her not to realize these things is not all because of her “diagnosis”, but also because she is loved and nurtured. God bless you and your family – it sounds like he already has with Maura!

  7. abby December 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    My high school friend posted this on her Facebook page. She is the mother of an adorable little many challenges. I however have been blessed with 4 gifted children who excel. Their are three exceptional people in our extended family with “mental challenges”. It ticked me off to read the reply from the “person” who dared to critique your post. I put the word “person” in quotes because I really would like to call them something else. I dare them to walk a day in your shoes. I applaud all parents of children with challenges.

    • abby December 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      She is the mother of an adorable little girl. It what is was supposed to say.

  8. Jen Beckham December 28, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    As a parent of a special needs child, I completely agree with your post! You speak straight from the heart, you truly have a passion for spreading awareness not only for your daughter, but for the countless others that have special needs.
    There is a phrase I like to say, I can’t remember where I got it from, but it works. “They don’t have disabilities, but different abilities.” Another thing I like to point out is, “Maura is a child first and foremost. Treat this angel as such. Please remember that Maura may have a disability, but the disability does not have Maura. It does not make up who she is, it does not define her.” I used your daughter’s name just as a tool in this quote.
    I was visiting my SIL in the hospital after delivering her baby, her boyfriend was talking with my husband and said “retarded” in some context, Momma Bear came out of me and I jumped on his case! I pointed to my son and said something along the lines of, “Look at that sweet little boy right there! He has disabilities, would you call him retarded? No? Then don’t call an action or anyone else retarded…ever! And never use it in my son’s or my presence ever again!” He looked quite shocked! I felt I had done my job in that instance.
    On behalf of special needs parents everywhere, thank you for spreading awareness! ❤

    • Timothy's mommy January 5, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      I am s mother of a precious 7 year old special needs little boy named Timothy. My husband and I live this reality every day. I don’t think anyone who does not have a special needs child can understand the fight we have to fight on a daily basis. It is emotionally and physically draining. Thank you so much for saying what we all feel and live everyday!

  9. Ren December 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    We can all use a reminder to be more sensitive. Lovely post. Thank you for sharing something so meaningful and a very useful reminder. 🙂 Your daughter just shines in the pictures. Beautiful.

  10. Heather December 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    thank you.

  11. connie December 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    you rock! and i’d hang w/ miss maura ANY DAY *hugs*

  12. Marcie December 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I want to thank you for writing this.You have beautifully put into words what I have longed to say. I have to wonderful boys, ages 18 and 15. My 15 year old is Cognitively disabled. My sister in law uses the word retard all the time. I emailed your post to my brother. Thank you again so much.

  13. Donna Faughn December 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    So beautifully said, and what a beautiful daughter you have.

  14. Jenn Brees December 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    As always, you have hit upon the crux of the matter. Beautifully written; thank you so much for always being willing to share your family’s experiences so openly. Your kids are learning from two of the very best!!

  15. Corner Garden Sue December 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    I am a special education Paraeducator, and when I hear someone use that word, I tell them I don’t like it. I like your thoughts on it. (I came here from a link on FB.)

  16. Jeff December 29, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    In engineering you will retard something (usually concrete) to make it harder and more durable. Maybe that is why someone who is “retarded” will stay with you in the worst of times.

    • phoebz4 December 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

      I like the way you think Jeff.

    • jo November 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      In music a retard is a time to slow down and enhance the beauty of the whole.I think that may also capture the beauty of Maura’s smile.

      • Corner Garden Sue November 20, 2013 at 7:00 am #

        I’m replying to the person who referred to the hurtful word as meaning slowing down in music. When people use it to describe a person, they are not thinking of music or beauty. Nope, it’s offensive ahd not a word that should be used to describe or label people.

  17. Janet December 29, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Beautifully put.

  18. franrissland December 29, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Greetings! I so love this post! My 7 year old son has CdLS. I am on the board of directors for the CdLS foundation and am very active in their fundraising efforts. I am also one of two special needs liaisons to the PTA at my sons school. We recently have been putting articles in our weekly newsletter as a special ed section highlighting the activities our kiddo’s do with special olympics, SN resources, whats going on in our special ed classrooms etc. If I get permission may I attach this blog post in our newsletter? This so hit home with me and I am sure other SN families would appreciate this being out there for others to read. Thank you for posting this! Well said!

  19. ThePeachy1 at BeingPeachy December 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    I was the perfect mom of the perfect child until my eyes were opened with a child who made me re evaluate every standard, dream and goal this life could hold. I use words as words, I have used that word, I have used that word in ref to me, and to him, he has used it in regards to himself. Never maliciously. He’s 20 now, and although some of the limits the world set on him haven’t been surpassed YET, he is certainly his own man. Is it the life I would have picked for him? NO, never ! Is it gut wrenching and harder than anything imaginable? YES! For your lovely girl with the heart of gold I hope that she never feels that term is derogatory and meant for her. My Oldest went into psychology and took great pride to come home with her degrees and explain that her father was definitely in the autism spectrum and that I was extremely OCD and that she also had issues, she said she actually learned that EVERYONE, has something “special” about them, and that’s why we have science, arts, math, philosophy, doctors, dancers, because each of our brains work differently and wouldn’t it be the most boring of worlds if we were all alike. So Ms Maura, paint, dance, sing, and heal with all your heart my love. It makes the world go around.

    • Dana January 5, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      This post is wonderful too! Right on!

  20. Monica Guss December 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Beautifully written! Thank you!

  21. RON December 29, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Just thought I’d say, Thank you, for a well written article.
    As the Father to a 12 y.o. son with Down Syndrome, I often find myself having to bite my tongue when I hear the word “Retarded” used in a derogatory manner.

    The word itself, does not offend me what so ever.
    If someone was to ask me if my son is retarded,… my answer is a polite “yes he is”, “would you like to meet him”, “He’s a great kid, and pretty darned impressive too.”

    It’s the way uneducated, uninformed people use the word, that can boil my steam.
    And if the word Retard, or ‘Tard, is ever used in my presence, with Intentional Malice,…
    Stand back, and watch out !
    because things are going to turn ugly Real Quick !
    My wife knows to not even try to get in my way on something like that…
    She just hopes and prays that the person doesn’t get hurt too bad, and retains enough consciousness to learn something from the freight train, that just ran them over.

    I am very proud of my son, and I like him just the way he is.
    That’s what makes him who he is.
    He is “Normal” (we say Typical), in 99% of his activities, and He can pretty much learn anything he has an interest in.
    He has the perfect “Love / Hate Sibling Rivalry” relationship with his little sister.
    and he will both protect her, and intentionally “push her buttons” when he feels like it.
    (one of his favorite tricks, is to grab her Barbie doll by the feet, and bang the dolls head on the table,.. for no other reason, than to piss-off his sister),…
    sounds pretty “Normal” to me,.. LOL!

    He has ALSO made some pretty impressive accomplishment that we are all very proud of.
    He has his own PC, and rarely needs any help navigating through all of his various programs, and games.
    He has his own chores that he diligently performs, often without ever having to be told.
    (I haven’t had to pick up any dog poop from the back yard for a couple of years!)
    He loves to help Mommie in the kitchen, cooking dinner,…
    (But he DOES seem to enjoy making Cookies alot more than Liver and Onions)…. DUH !

    He absolutely LOVES to work jigsaw puzzles,…
    and recently, he has started putting the pieces of a 300 – 500 piece puzzle UPSIDE DOWN ! on the table,… (Cardboard side up), and will proceed to work the puzzle WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE PICTURES !!!
    Let me see some of these young punks who use the word ‘tard’ do that !

    We love to go camping in the local Deserts, and we enjoy riding ATV’s.
    My son rides his own actual 90cc ATV, (no,… not some electric kiddie toy), and we have enjoyed many family trail rides, with everyone riding their own machine, to explore some incredible sites, and have shared many lifelong fantastic memories.
    Being Retarded, has not held him (or us), back from all the things we like to do, and we are not about to let it start anytime soon.

    But make no mistake,
    I will be the first to set anyone straight who wants to berate, degrade or dehumanize him, simply because he is not “like them”.

    as a matter of fact,… I wouldn’t WANT him to be “like them”.
    they’d be a lot better off, if they were more like HIM.

    He’s my son,
    I am proud of him,
    and I like him just the way he is.
    (even when he IS being a typical little boy !) LOL !


    • Michelle Caez January 4, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      ❤ beautiful

    • Shelly January 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm #


    • Crystal Murrieta January 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

      Thank you!!! reading what you wrote give me more hope for my own son he’s 8 months old and had been labeled with downs syndrome and i have been trying to find comments like yours to better show my family that my little Colton will be more than just a little boy with downs syndrome… Because I my self feel as though the Lord has blessed me to give me such a happy and unconditionally loving little angel but some of my family are still confused and make the rude remark of “I’m sorry!” and to me it’s offensive because my response is No I’m truly sorry because I was blessed with him and you aren’t… So thank you!!!

  22. Laura Mills December 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    well played phoebz4, well played!
    Some people will never “get it”.
    For those of us that do…Thanks!
    My husband and I are busy now retweeting and reposting “Being Retarded”.
    Best to you and yours in the new year!

  23. Kelly Cooper December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I am blessed with a 6 year old daughter with Down Syndrome. I just shared your story on my Facebook page. Hoping to encourage people to think before they speak….so ignorantly.

  24. karen December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Excellent post and now going to be my go-to post when the word is mis-used. Running to my FB page to re-post now …

  25. Julie December 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    I get both points. many words in todays language are offensive because of how they were used. i personally do not choose to say that a person with mental disabilities is retarded, there are some people with downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, servilely autistic, psychotic , etc., that I know that are more intelligent than I am! mentally challenged is my term. but retarded they aren’t, sometimes we need to take a step back and think how sensitive we can be towards things when they are effecting us directly. God is our keeper, we need to give it all to him, he’s there to carry our burdens. Peace.

    • Sandra Pekarek December 31, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

      Well spoken, Julie. I really appreciate your post.

  26. Crystal T. December 29, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. I honestly haven’t understood before now why some feel this term is offensive. I myself haven’t equated it with ‘stupid’ but I do agree that many people do and you’ve laid out very eloquently how meanings get construed.

  27. mom December 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    Perfectly stated!

  28. tara December 30, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    Wonderfully put.

  29. Elizabeth December 30, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    Bravo, outstanding and all that. I’m visiting your blog from Facebook and hope this terrific argument goes viral. i will certainly help it to do so! Thank you.

  30. Abigail December 30, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    As a mother of a child with developmental delays it has been my biggest fear that he will have to deal with peoples stupidity and cuel words. This post gives me hope. Thank you

  31. vicki December 30, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    I saw this thru a friend’s email and I think it is beautifully written. It reminds us that we should think before we speak. Something I always tell my students.

  32. Jeneva December 30, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Ah. The old “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” defense. I guess there are no problems with guns, either. It’s just when people don’t use them properly.

    When someone uses the word(s) “retarded,” “retard,” and “tard” as insults, the problem is with the words. And the people who use them. Both. When anyone uses those words to create a hostile social climate for people with disabilities, lots of people out there will continue to feel OK about actually abusing, neglecting, or denying medical or educational services to people with disabilities. There are many, many words that are no longer used by responsible people nor allowed use by newspapers, magazines and websites precisely because they are ugly and hurtful. Whatever benign secondary meanings they had have been superseded.

    And people who are killed by guns are still dead. Even if the people who are really to blame (because we can’t blame the actual gun) just didn’t use the gun properly.

  33. Vodka Calling December 30, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Well said! That word is not allowed in our house. My husbands brother had cerabal palsey (passed away inhis 30’s) growing up all the kids would call him “retarded”. My husband was in a lot of fights because of that.

    Very good post that I will re tweet.

  34. Christine Boyer Marsh December 30, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    I am a Mom of four wonderful, wild, and beautiful children ; three daughters and a son. My son is fourteen and affected by autism. He is non-verbal and has many delays, but to use the expression “retarded” is both an insult and archaic. There are many reasons for cognitive and socio-emotional delays, and all have specific names. The person is AFFECTED by the delay, but it is not their entire being.

  35. Sandi December 30, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I completely get it. Here is a poem I wrote about my son and this very thing.

    Dear ___________,
    I have a son who is developmentally disabled.
    He is kind and lovely and funny.
    And he is being bullied.

    It has been going on now for over 4 months.
    They punch him and kick him.
    And call him a retard. (Do you know it takes me a good 4 minutes to type that word? And even longer to recover from it.)
    He doesn’t know what it means, exactly.
    In 8th grade you don’t have to understand it, to feel the sting. (Especially, if you’re cognitively more like a 2nd grader.)

    But today, when I picked up my beautiful 14 year old son,
    before his seatbelt was buckled, he burst into tears.
    “They did it again”, he mumbles, “said I’m a retard.”

    And I want to scream.

    I want to make his stormy ocean-grey eyes, calm again.
    I want to promise him that it will never happen again.
    But, I can’t.
    Because people are mean.
    Instead, I have to teach him to be brave.
    And not to be mean in return.
    So, I was wondering if just as a favor to me…to Ryder…
    to all of the many, many people in his life who love him
    Could you teach your son to be nice?
    Perhaps tell him the value of differences.
    Help him realize that he is stealing my son’s joy
    and his peaceful sleep.

    We have fought for this sleep!

    4 years ago, my son couldn’t sleep a wink.
    He had seizures for the entire length of his rest.
    8 1/2 hours a night of pure hell.
    Every single night.
    For at least 2 years.
    Every time he closed his eyes.
    And now, finally when he is getting some sleep,
    he’s having nightmares about your son.

    So, please- speak to him and ask him to be kind.

    If you can’t do any of that,
    then would you please just tell him to stay home tomorrow.
    Because Ryder deserves a day off.
    And he would like to spend it with his friends.

    Thank you,
    Ry’s mommy

    • Corner Garden Sue December 30, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      Well said, Sandi. If you have a FB account, put it there, too, and request Sue Dawson to be a friend, and I will share it.

    • Kiesha December 30, 2011 at 11:31 am #

      Awesome poem! I work with children with special needs, and I make it my duty to introduce my son to people orally kinds. I want him to be kind. I want him to understand that everyone doesn’t learn or think the way he does. Unfortunately, parents of children who are deliberately mean to others are the the tree who bore such fruit.

      I took my son to a district – wide dance for high-school students with special needs last year. He was reluctant to enjoy himself at first and innocently whispered to me “Mom. Some of these kids look…weird”. I agreed with him and quickly explained to him that their looking “different” was paired with their disabilities. But I also pointed out that they were all partying their butts off and he was the one standing with his Mommy looking…weird. That was all I had to say. I didn’t see him for the rest of the night.

      • Corner Garden Sue December 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

        I am grinning about what you said to your son. I’ve been to gatherings like that, and love how much fun is had.

    • Dana January 5, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Your post made me cry. It’s so incredibly sad and unfair that this would even be something you would feel was needed. And yet it shows the same compassion that we hope EVERYONE would someday have. My nephew is 11, with the understanding of a 5 yr old. He can be annoying sometimes when he gets his mind set to do somethng and simply will not take no for an answer. But he’s not annoying because of his disabilities. Kids don’t want to be around him. They don’t want to be his friend. He gets hit and kicked and kids take his things, on a daily basis. I’ve been at his house when he’s come home from school and witnessed that gut wrenching look you speak of. I don’t understand why people have to be so cruel. What could they possibly gain from making a child like that feel worse about themselves than they already do? Ya know, if they picked on each other, their friends who picked back, that might be one thing. But to pick on a child who is CLEARLY not doing it to them is just cruel. it’s pointless.

      I don’t necessarily think it’s “bad” to call myself retarded for doing something that could be defined as “retarded” or “slow”, though I don’t make a habit of it either. But to call a child like this a retard, is flat out cruelty. I’m sure the child is all too aware at how different they are. They don’t need little jerks to point it out to them daily. These little TERRORISTS (there’s another name by definition) wouldn’t appreciate being called a freckle faced little snot every day.

  36. Anne December 30, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Well spoken, Phoebe, and very true!

  37. Monique December 30, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Actually “Retard” Is an English bastardization of the French word “retard” which means late, or behind. “Je suis en retard! J’ai un rendezvous en dix minutes!” Just like the racist N word used for African Americans is a bastardized version of “Negro” which is the Spanish word for Black.

    How many times have I been called intolerant by anglos for using the word “Retard” when speaking to my husband in French, and using it how it really is meant to be used, LATE. 😦

    • RON December 30, 2011 at 9:21 am #

      My Wife is a first born generation in the USA, of French Immigrant parents.
      My wife’s first language is French, as it was the most common language used in the house as she grew up.
      English is actually her Second Language.
      Neither she, or my in-laws, use the word retard.
      Whether speaking french or english.

      • Monique December 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

        Ron I meant a bastardization of the pronunciation.

        Retard in French is pronounced with a short E
        Retard in English is pronounced with a long E Reetard. see?

        JE SUIS EN RETARD = I am late. Could be the difference between QUEBEC French and France French I don’t know. But remember not everyone who speaks French, is from France.

  38. Jim December 30, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Thank you for wrighting this. You are a brave and beautiful mother. Maura is a very lucky and blessed child to have you. You obviously feel the same of her. It is so good to find some spark, some gem of good in the day-to-day world that has increasingly become filled with negative news. I will remember your story and perpetuate your purpose here by advocating peoples education regarding the negative use of the word “retarded”. I will gladly spread the word.

    All the best to you and your family,
    A friend,

  39. Life with Kaishon December 30, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Thank you for this. Thank you so much. Maura is beautiful. Beyond beautiful really. Wishing you a very happy New Year.

  40. Zoe December 30, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    LOve this post and thank you for posting this. We use stuff everyday and never realize what we are actually saying. I am going to make a point of not using this term anymore. 🙂

  41. Kristie Escoe December 30, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Several years ago I used to keep an online blog that was fairly well followed (at least within my little circle of friends) and I used the word “retarded” just like you said …. self-deprecatingly, without malice. But I used it and didn’t give it a second thought. One time I posted a blog entry about some computer problems I was having and called myself a “techno-retard”. A blog reader, whose son was developmentally disabled, e-mailed me privately. She very graciously explained why my usage of the word “retarded” was hurtful to her son, to by extension, to her. She ended the e-mail with a comment along the lines of “nervous about pressing this send button, but I have to be honest and tell you how you are making me feel.” I was SO mortified. Honestly, I hadn’t given it a thought. I am SO grateful she pointed out how my words were hurtful, and you can believe that I have NEVER used that word, even jokingly, since. But I do have problems with my own kids now, who are teenagers, using it. Not malciously, but because all their friends use it …. part of their everyday vocabulary. And I tell them and tell them, and I get the eye roll in return. (Do you have older kids??? Then you know just the eye roll that I mean, ha!) Today, I can point them to this blog entry and let you explain it better than I can. So thank you for that. Hopefully you will help them just like my online friend helped me. Happy New Year!

  42. Terry December 30, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I wish I had written this myself. It clearly expresses how I feel everytime I hear that word. My sarcasm would never have let me write something so perfect. Our children with disabilities are in no way stupid ~ I am very proud of my daughter. She is the most loving and caring person I know.
    Thank you so much for writing this and I hope you do not mind that I shared it on Facebook and plan to share with all the families on our Special Olympics team.

    Thanks again,

  43. Kiesha December 30, 2011 at 11:17 am #


    Working as a behavioral interventionist with children afflicted with autism, I am offended by the word “retarded” used improperly as well. Thank you for your message.

  44. Zein Zoom December 30, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    My child is on the autistic spectrum, and I too was upset at the hostility, because I know many people who cannot pick up on social cues, who doggedly stick to their own way of seeing things without being able to acknowledge another’s perspective. I worry about how others will treat my child as an adult should he blunder in this manner. Thank you for your insight and respectful thoughts.

  45. ozziesmama December 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    thank you. you said this in exactly the way i wish i could. and now i will.

  46. sweetridgesisters December 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Your daughter is beautiful, and so are you. -kate

  47. Wendy December 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I feel lucky to have read this. It’s lovely.

  48. Heather December 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Thanks for posting this phoebz! You are SO right! I always take a stand against it and am fortunate enough to work with kids (I’m a speech-language pathologist) and have had many discussions regarding this very issue! Ignorance is NOT bliss!

  49. jillsmo December 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    This is AWESOME!!!!!

  50. Sarah December 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Very well said! An excellent reminder for anyone (myself included) who has ever used the wrong word when we simply meant ‘stupid’. Thank you.

  51. Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg December 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    I love this post, but I have to take issue with the following:

    “But ever the optimist, I also know that retarded means…

    …never realizing the negativity behind the word retarded.

    …never knowing the insensitivity surrounded the word’s usage.

    …never realizing the ignorance of people.

    …never knowing how other people view you.”

    Intellectually and cognitively disabled adults will tell you that they do understand, very, very well, the impact of the word “retarded” and they are very hurt by it. The impact of their sense of safety and self-esteem is immense. One of the ways in which people dismiss those of us who are fighting the “R” word is to say “Well, those people don’t have the intelligence to know what the word means, so who cares?” Trust me, they know. You don’t have to have a high IQ to understand when someone is being hurtful and derogatory.

    When people use the word “retard,” they’re using a disability as a slur word. These are the same people who would likely never use a racial slur or an ethnic slur, but somehow, people with ID don’t get the same respect. Thanks for fighting the good fight, on behalf of your beautiful daughter and everyone else.

    • phoebz4 December 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

      While you are absolutely right – many cognitively impaired people DO realize the hurtful nature of the word – in this post, I was referring to how it is defined in our own household.

      That said – my daughter Maura may not understand it when you rudely use the word “retarded” – but she has three very bright siblings who will take offense for her. And have. Not just for their sister, but others like her.

  52. Julie Storey December 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    I understand exactly what you mean. I don’t think I thought a lot about it myself until I had a special needs child 3 years ago. She has multiple disabilities including, what at this point is being called – developmentally behind. However, we were told that she would most likely have some level of mental retardation. She is absolutely beautiful and we just love the way she makes us smile. Her genuine love and joy and confidence are something that many without any amount of mental retardation will never gain. I have become much more sensitive to the word and appreciate those that are careful with it’s use. You are correct – it does not mean stupid and when it is used as a synonym it is insulting and insensitive. Thank you for bringing it to the attention of those who may not have thought about it. I would put myself in that category in the past. Before I had Elisa I didn’t know how special she would be. I was terrified of her disabilities. Today – I can’t imagine life any other way and I’m so proud to be her Mom!!! I thank God for opening my eyes to the beauty He has put in all of us and helped me understand and respect all people.

  53. Jennie Hartman December 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    This is exactly what I am “preaching” everyday at my job!!! I am a behavior tech with a 12 little girl who has autism. It is our third year at her home school, for 4 years before that she was in an autism only classroom. I moved with her to be her one on one. She is amazing…:-) We introduced her when we started at our school to all 170 + third graders, briefly explaining what autism is. Also, that Hannah is very intelligent. Now in the fifth grade she is probably the most popular. All of the kids know how passionate I am about her and her needs. They will all tell you that nobody say the “R” around us. I’ve tried to educate them on the meaning and how inappropriate it is. They are truly an amazing group of kids!!!
    Jennie Hartman

  54. Teresa December 30, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Thanks for a lovely post. As the mother of a moderately mentally retarded son, I often find myself in this very position. I am not above pointing out the insensitivity to people I know or complete strangers. I agree, most people don’t mean to be insensitive, but in today’s world, it is hard for me to see why people would choose to use such thoughtless words. I feel very blessed to have such a sweet and loving child, and I know you do as well. God Bless!

  55. leisahammett December 30, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Bravo! I also have a very smart kid.

  56. Subhakar Das December 31, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    Not a nice word to use on someone…definitely offensive. Mentally retarded? No one is mentally retarded…they are differently abled. Great post. Have a good year in 2012

  57. Autism Daddy December 31, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Love this post! I have a son with severe autism who could also be considedred mentally retarded. I recently wrote a blog post about the R word on my blog at

  58. robinplemmons December 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Thank you for putting into words what I’d like to say to people who use it. Thank you for the perspective. You’re making a difference.

  59. mamaschinsky December 31, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I absolutely love this.
    I (unfortunately) never gave any thought to using that word until I became a home health aide.

    When I became a CNA, my first job was as a home health aide with an agency that provides CNAs, RNs, and physical, occupational, and speech therapists to children with developmental disabilities who are on the Medicaid waiver.
    For two years, I worked part-time with four different girls with varying degrees of cerebral palsy. The experience was life-changing. These were some of the happiest, most genuine, sweetest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. In fact, I met many kids who received aide from our agency at our staff meetings, and they are ALL that way. Beautiful, open, honest, innocent children. It brings me to tears just thinking about them.

    I think a whole lot differently about using the word “retarded” now. I refuse to ever use it, and if someone I know uses it, I ask them to please stop.

    Thank you so much for this post. And your daughter is absolutely beautiful.

  60. Denice December 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    All you need to know is that your babies are beautiful. Completely beautiful. Inside and out. ♥

  61. Barbara Escalante December 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Yesterday’s medical diagnosis becomes today’s playground insults. School children are quick to taunt their classmates with diagnostic or categorical names, then , we “adults” pick up on the incorrect usage, too. Or sometimes we even start it. “Oh, I forgot my grocery list. It must be my Alzheimer kicking in.” So the medical and educational community comes up with a different, more gentle sounding name and that too will eventually become a derogatory term. It has been going on for years. But thank goodness for people like phoebz4 who protest this practice and call our attention to our own bad habit. Glad to hear about the school that does the same. .

  62. amy December 31, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    yes i myself use the retard as a way to descids things that r not working well or broken or ppl who dont go faster enough for me…i do have training to work w ppl who have mental disabilities and i have. so i should know better….and you open my eyes…i will not be using this word anymore…my beautiful daughters dont need to go to school and use this word..

  63. Stacy Phillips Cobb December 31, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I am the person that stops in the middle of a busy store to call someone out on using that word. As the mother of a mentally challenged 12 year old boy I take great offense in the “R” word. I have no problem educating people on just exactly how offense that word is! All I have to say is GO MOM!!!!!!

  64. Barbara December 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I have not even been able to say the “r” out loud since my 1st grandchild was born 21 years ago with Down Syndrome.
    My daughter and I are the ones responsible for The Nights of Columbus in our area changing the writing on the aprons they wear when giving out Tootsie Rolls at intersections. They used to say something like “Helping Retarded People; now its no longer offensive to anyone.
    I wish you all Peace and Happiness in the New Year…..

  65. Corner Garden Sue December 31, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    When a person is hurt by the use of a word, I don’t feel they need to get used to it.

  66. Corner Garden Sue December 31, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    I agree.

  67. Jane January 1, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    I have a son with cerebral palsy and always cringed at the word “spaz” that people thoughtlessly throw around.

  68. Bren January 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I admit that I have been guilty of using the term “retarded” to describe my stupidity or forgetfulness. As with most people who do this it certainly was not with viscious intent but rather total thoughtlessness as to how it might make someone who really is retarded and the people who know them feel. I appreciate your blog on this subject. I will definitely be more mindful and sensitive about how I describe my actions! All the best to you in the new year:)

  69. other ways of being retarded January 2, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    “But she did open herself up for comment ”

    But open for comments does that mean insults hurled and told not to dare have her ideas?

    “I am trying to be fair and let all voices be heard here”

    Are those even comments really? or howls of pain? Those comments were painful to witness. Sort of like seeing kids cruelly taunt each other.

  70. phoebz4 January 2, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    People are free to come back and retract anything they want to. However, the way the internet works, people comment, leave, and never think about what they commented about again.

  71. mom2four January 2, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    Well said! There are simply people that will never understand the true point here. This is about feelings and basic humanity. Those feelings should be respected and people should be willing to recognize that for the benefit of others, rather than argue that it’s OK based on the proper definition of the words they are using. If the words they are choosing hurt others, then it just might be to the benefit of all to make better choices.

    It is very unfortunate for my daughter to have a high enough cognitive ability to recognize her disabilities and to recognize her limitations and how different she is from other children (including her 3 younger siblings). With each passing year, at now almost 11 years old, those differences become greater and more obvious. When words like, retarded, stupid, dumb, idiot, etc., are used even around her, she takes it straight to the heart. IT HURTS HER!!! It’s heart breaking to watch. Can any of you step back for one moment from being so indignant about “definitions” and “proper word usage” to simply recognize the basics of humanity and feelings of others? Imagine then for one moment what it does when these words are actually directed at this child, BECAUSE THEY ARE!!! Other children are cruel, people in this world can be cruel…. This has lead her at times into self deprecating times when she recognizes that she is doing something or saying something that is not within the normal bounds of societal expectations. She’s been called these names so many times that it has caused her to call HERSELF these names under extreme circumstances when she gets upset about her own behavior! She can’t help herself simply because of who she is and because of how she was made. It’s heart breaking and down right devastating to watch! I guarantee you would not want to see it. 😦 She’s a beautiful , sweet, loving child with feelings, who sometimes I wish didn’t have the level of social acuity she does. Then maybe she wouldn’t be hurt by the ignorance of those who feel that it’s OK to use hurtful words simply because a dictionary tells them that it’s OK, regardless of the consequences to others.

    • phoebz4 January 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      I am so sorry that your child has been hurt by the ignorance of others. It is so painful to watch as a parent. People don’t always get that the hurt isn’t just to the one person, it spreads to all those who love that person as well.

  72. Fran January 2, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Awesome post. In my school district, we are trying to erase the “r” word from students’ vocabularies for this exact reason. God bless you and your beautiful daughter!

  73. Chelleigh January 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    We are all retarded in our own way, the word itself in a nutshell means not perfect. The word was created to assist individuals with disabilities in a way to identify a need for assistance or funding, it was created to help…HOWEVER as soon as they tied the word with a picture of a person who has a disability it didn’t assist them, it crucified their character, their meaning, their integrity. I have worked with individuals with disabilities since I was 16, I am 40 now. I have seen, heard, felt what every person I served went thru because of the word retarded. They put themselves (because of normal people) in that picture that was created and it hurts. Kids continue to be ruthless and adults too throwing the word around with gestures and faces….its hurtful. After serving probably over 1000 people with disabilities, I can tell you, every single person with any disability is a saint. In my opinion, they are closer to God than any of us. If you think “they” are stupid….your so wrong. In my experience, they get what life is all about…cherishing love, friendship, hugs. They get excited about the small things that all of us should, being able to put your clothes on by yourself is a gift that if your not careful can be taken away…NOT one person, who I ever worked with that was “retarded” would start a war, a fight, or even an argument intentionally to hurt…For those of you who do not have the highest respect for a parent of a child with any disability, your a lost soul. The parents and the children will always be saints in my eyes, all us NORMAL people should stop, learn and listen to what they have to say, BECAUSE it matters. God bless you phoebz4 and your family now and forever.

  74. BSQDDP January 3, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Technically the term is “retardation” this is not a word that has a root “retard” or used as a verb “retarded” as “r” word is a slang term to “retardation.” Referred to in meaning for “Mental Retardation.” “Socially retarded” is not even a technical diagnosis in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) but you will find MR. To which you will find that most states are getting away from using and going to Intellectually Challenged/Delayed because of the negativity connotation towards those who misuse the “R” word.

  75. laura January 3, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    She is just the cutest thing!!! Those eyes sparkle. I bet she can light up any room!

    • phoebz4 January 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      she really and truly does! She is the type of child that adds sunshine to any day 😀

  76. Kailey's Mom January 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    As a mom of a daughter with cerebral palsy, I think your post was great! And it’s true, you never really understand the hurt that comes with hearing the “r” word used so prolifically until you love someone that the word represents. The only thing I might have to disagree with is when you say you know that someone who is retarded wouldn’t understand the negativity behind the word, or the insensative way people view those with a disability. I think a lot of times we underestimate how much our kids and adults, with disabilities, can feel in those situations. People who have communication issues, may not be able to vocalize their feelings but it doesn’t mean they can’t feel hurt when certain words are used, or sad when people continue to rudely stare at them. No body knows your daughter better than you, so I don’t dare say you don’t know her and her own abilities to reason and understand such hurtful things, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying being labeled “retarded” means you aren’t aware of the full impact of that word because I think a lot of people labeled “retarded” are more than capable of understanding how vicious the term really is, even in jest. But again, I loved your post and the only way we’re ever going to see any change is if people start saying something, so THANK YOU!

  77. Dot McFarlane January 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    My close friend Michelle was physically challenged. She was my roommate and I was her primary caregiver for the last 15 years of her life (she passed away last May). My other close friend Lisa is also my roommate. Lisa’s one of three children, all of whom have some degree of intellectual disabilites. Her brother James is 41 and functions at a 6-year-old level. He’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever been priviledged to know. I’m blessed to have both him and their sister Melody as my close friends as well. Melody’s been married to her husband Clarence for over 17 years and they have 3 beautiful daughters (Anne, Shana and Cindy). Melody was told by her teachers, that she could never have children. HA!!

    I can’t stand people saying the R word and have made it a point to never say it again, in a negative way. Many years ago we were at a movie with James when kids behind him started calling him names and throwing popcorn at him. We warned them once, then eventually had them escorted from the theatre. And a few years ago, on Boxing Day, we were walking down the mall when Lisa was slapped in the back by three teenage girls who first said, “Let’s smack the retard.” Needless to say, they got a real tongue-lashing from us!!!!

  78. lovingmissliz7304 January 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Thank you. My daughter is also mentally retarded. At 7 she is cognitively around 12-18 months. She is also a delightful, happy child, and I know how the misuse of this term feels. Some friends of ours used to use the phrase “little yellow school bus” in the same way. Like if they did something stupid they should be riding one. My daughter rides one to school, and that phrase to me was unnecessary. Just say you did something stupid and move on. Thank you for voicing this.

    • Ceil Chapman January 4, 2012 at 1:49 am #

      I had the stepfather of my children constantly trying to catch my children making mistakes, just so he could remind them that ” the short school bus” wasn’t too far away.
      It took years of tender living care to erase those sadistic jokes.
      Not funny guys.
      One of my sons has autism, and was included in those put-downs….;/(

  79. dena roering January 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    When I first started working with children with severe disabilities (retardation as it’s called in the states- Im in England now where the term is rarely used), someone once said it would be so depressing to spend the day with children who are so disabled. I was very young at the time (18) and I remembering responding that it was actually exactly the opposite. I witnessed every day, in these children, the true meaning of life. They didn’t worry about where their next meal was coming from, or if they would ever get their dream job, or if they measured up. They took joy in the moment, lived in the moment, and enjoyed their experiences so much. They didn’t know to hold back their joy for fear of looking silly. Likewise, if they didn’t like something, there was no mistaking it! I learned a lot from that group of children, and feel honoured to have had the chance to know them. At 41, I am now trying to get my life back on track by learning to live in the moment, enjoy what life has to offer each day- even the mundane bits. Thanks for sharing your precious daughter with us.

  80. Alicia January 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Amazing post. I use to be an R-word user…. something that I just grew up saying without any thought to how it affected others…. then my precious boy was born and the term began to add pain to my life. My husband and I have vowed to not use it anymore. Its amazing how often you hear it… and even hear it from people speaking directly to you! Thank you for writing this so articulately!!! I’m definitely sharing this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  81. stephym22 January 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    I have a friend who is gay. And every time someone says “That’s Gay!” in her presence, she says “Is that really gay? Because I know a lot about gay, and what you’re talking about isn’t gay at all.” It let ‘s people know that she’s not cool with the word usage. But it’s delivered in sort of a nice way.

    I have a son with “developmental delays.” He will probably never speak, and he will never live on his own. And for so long, I have been wanting something to share with my friends (kind of like the phrase my other friend uses when people inappropriately use the word “gay”)–instead of stumbling over all the reasons why I hate the “r” word. Thanks. This post is perfect for sharing with them.

    • Ceil Chapman January 4, 2012 at 1:45 am #

      Blessings of health, peace and joy to you and your precious family…!

  82. acreagealert2011 January 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    so true….my son is labeled the same as your daughter……and its amazing to us what he learns and remembers….and then for the life of him can’t remember our phone number……or our address…will he be able to live on his own probably not…..but he brings us so much joy its worth it….

  83. Lisa Krupa Bowersock January 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Excellent! Worth the read. Been fighting this fight as long as I was old enough to stick up for my brother.

  84. Karen H January 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. I’m sharing with my family!!

  85. Laura@Catharsis January 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Oh dear. I get your point. My son suffered a stroke in utero and my uncle has Down Syndrome, so for years, my sentiments have been mirrors of yours. Using the word “retarded” to mean “stupid” or “less than” is offensive, plain and simple, and those of us with first-hand knowledge of the hurt that can result from its usage have every right to demand it not be used in a hurtful way. I have a diagnosis for the commenter, but as I’m not a medical professional, I’m hesitant to leave it here for fear I may offend your readers unintentionally. I do have extensive experience working with a range of individuals as a high school teacher, and I wonder if the seeming insensitivity of the commenter is a result of what I suspect he or she battles.

    On a side note, I did a guest post for a health publication about pediatric stroke, the signs of it, and where to seek assistance, and a commenter stated it was “decent” but he’d like to see more articles about raising a child who has suffered a stroke rather than those where parents complain about how hard it is. I did not feel my raising awareness was complaining, and though I responded to the commenter graciously, I stewed over it for a few days and wrote what I actually feel on my own blog. The point? I understand the hurt a comment such as this carries, and I want you to know, I believe you are 100% correct and entitled to express your opinions about the hurtfulness of the word.

  86. Madonna January 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Far out! Some people really can get their knickers in a twist huh? I just feel like doing a Dude….Really?!! to each of them!! lol
    Great post! From a Mummy of 4 one of whom with lots of “foibles” – CP, epliepsy list goes on and on…..Way to go on expressing your opinion and the opinion of lots of us parents of special needs kids!!!!

  87. Terra Davenport January 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    I feel there is so much more to this, she will probably achieve more than any of us will hope for in our lifetime. She will see things that we miss in everyday, humdrum lives. God created her special and THAT is awesome. She’ll have an inner strength and peace that so many in the world lack. The simple joys she will find, will be the memories that you as her mother will cherish here and long after. The glass is always half full.

  88. Marge Jones January 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Thank you for a well written article—I am a parent of many special needs children and adults…this word has been used to hurt them many of them many times. Hopefully they have learned from these experiences, and will be able to respond kindly to those who usually don’t intend to hurt them.

  89. Sami Wilcox January 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    I have actually gone up to people I know who have used this word in my presents, and asked how would you like it if people were to say “Wow that was a Scott thing to do? Hey you Scott!! Man you are acting like a Scott ( or Bill, or Bob or Sue). It made “Scott” stop and think. At first he said he never used that word. When I pointed out that he did and does in fact use this word, he was shocked. That word is no longer being used at my work!! Scott was the acting team leader for my area!

    • Amy January 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

      I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous…a lot of what I’m reading on here is ridiculous (although, that might be offensive because there are ridiculous people out there). Yes, its an inappropriate word to use, but is it your job to berate people? If you truly do that, that is just silly(although, that might be offensive because some people are silly). Being a good example is the most effective way to prove something. My best friends little boy has RTS. She doesn’t jump down peoples throats when she hears them use the term ‘retarded’ out of context. She knows it wasn’t a stab at her son. When I look at her son, I dont think “retard” I think he is a very special person diagnosed with RTS. People need stop thinking they are so perfect. We could do away with a lot of terms, some that we all use, even you perfect “r” word banishers. You actually draw more attention to it then is needed.

      • phoebz4 January 30, 2012 at 6:23 am #

        Have you ever actually asked your friend what her true feelings are about the word? I have had very close friends who adore my daughter use the word “retarded” around me all the time. While I know it wasn’t a stab at my daughter, it still pinched a bit. But I never said anything. So I’m sure they thought I was okay with it. But you know, after seven years of getting pinched repeatedly by the word, it’s left a mark. Just because someone doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother them. It means they value your friendship enough to let things slide. At least, that’s my point of view on it.

  90. linda January 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Love your post!!! I have been a special education teacher for 17 years. For as long as I can remember, this word being used improperly has been offensive to me. Those who know me well know not to even utter it if it is being used in the wrong context.

  91. Leslie Cullen January 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    I love what you wrote, and Maura is absolutely gorgeous and adorable! What a beautiful soul beams out from her face.

  92. Christina January 3, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Love love love this post!

    I have to tell YOU a short story. This past October I wanted to see if my daughter Emily would like to ride the hayride {Emily is diagnosed with a chromosome disorder}.

    We got on the hayride….she was resisting by doing her little scream. I was hoping as the ride went on….she would realize how much she liked it. Didn’t happen. She pretty much cried the entire ride.

    The ride stops and a little girl {around my daughter’s same age} walked straight up to her and stuck her tongue out at her.

    All I have to say is………..THANK GOD for that innocence he gave our “special” children to now always understand what is going on. In situations like that.

    • phoebz4 January 4, 2012 at 7:03 am #

      Oh man. I’ve been in those situations (the “We thought she’d like it…we were so so wrong!”). Like it’s not nerve-wracking enough, having another child react that way really tests your patience!

      • Corner Garden Sue January 4, 2012 at 9:14 am #

        This is a little off, but my grandson, who turned 4 this month has been going through tests for problems stemming from food allergies. They just found out he has a condition where his esophagus has something like eczema on it when he eats foods he is allergic to. From a young age, he had eczema on his skin, and vomited a lot. He doesn’t do it as much as he used to, but they are still trying to figure out what he’s really allergic to. He just had a new series of food allergy tests on his back, and there are only a handful of foods he can eat for 6 months until they can start reintroducing them. They have to send all his food with him to day care.

        Anyway, about a year ago, his mom was at day care eating lunch with him, when a little girl told her, “We don’t like K……” When asked, “Why, is he mean?’, the girl said that he pukes. That really stayed with her, because she just recently mentioned it on FB. It’s hard seeing a loved one hurt by words.

  93. Blakesley Wood January 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post! My little niece, Julia, has a chromosome deletion and is mentally/physically disabled, but she is the light of my life! Definitely understand where you are coming from concerning the r-word. I am a huge advocate of spread the word to end the word. You have a beautiful daughter! God bless!

  94. Gail January 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this with the world. I have been trying to remove the word from my vocabulary for many years. Occasionally it will slip out and I feel horrible… it’s hard to change a bad habit. Many years of using it (as a tween/teen, etc) gets stuck in your brain.

    After reading this – bringing me to tears – i think it will be easier for me to NOT let it slip out. I am sharing this on my FB wall and have also Pinned to pinterest. A must read for everyone. Thank you and your beautiful daughter!!

  95. Marissa Sladek January 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    I’ll admit it, I used to use the “R” word quite a few years ago. Now I am a card carrying member of the mom of multiple special needs children club. I have one child with autism, apraxia, and learning disabilities. I have another child with global developmental delays, and possible Asperger’s. My youngest son has a 16p11.2 duplication, apraxia, and autism. I now spread the word that it is not acceptable to use the “R” word at all.

  96. William Richards January 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    I taught for 38 years, the last 29 as a teacher of severely multiply impaired in Michigan. You have exactly described how I feel about the use of that word, and how I felt about each and every one of my students. Thank you.

  97. SSS January 3, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    you shouldnt ever let something as simple as a word bother you… I can assure you your daughter doesnt care half as much as you do about a word. Relax… she’s just a little girl. Keep that in mind. I would probably bet when she grows up, she probably STILL wont care about that word and the worry you created over it.

    • phoebz4 January 4, 2012 at 6:45 am #

      My little girl may not know or care – but her siblings do. It hurts them as well. Obviously, the word usage hurts a lot of people or there wouldn’t be so many comments about it.

    • Joyce January 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

      Dear SSS You obviously have no idea what you are talking about I know a young child who has been called this name by classmates & it is extremely bothersome & hurtful to him!! I also worked with older adults with learning delays and had nurses in the hospital refer to them by the “r” word, it not only offended them & hurt their feelings it did mine also!! One thing you are right about is that her daughter is just a little girl; children are very sensitive and are at their most impressionable age so her mother has every right to want to protect & defend her & at this age is when we teach our children how to treat others as they would like to be treated. Working in the field has been the most rewarding experience i have had. You unfortunately do not realize how much you take for granite until you work with someone who has to wait for others to be able to do something as simple as take a bath, eat a meal or go to the bank or anywhere outside their home for that matter. Or when the only people who spend a holiday with them are being paid to do so. And even with all they have to deal with; they were by far the most understanding, appreciative, and loving people I’ve known. Also it is very obvious that hurtful terms or names are not just “words”..have you not heard of children who take their own lives because they are so hurt or bothered by the names they are called by others.

  98. Vanessa January 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    Thank you Ms. Phoebe. Thank you thank you thank you. My 10 year old is also mentally impaired with the same prognosis as your little girl. I could not have summarized my sentiments any better, awesome blog. I haven’t commented on a blog in a really long time but you deserve the highest praise and gratitude on this one. We are moving to Dublin to become friends with you! Just kidding. I wish :). Keep it coming!

  99. Jessica January 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Wow…you said it perfectly. I hope it’s okay that I repost and link back to your blog. I have found a new great blog! 🙂

  100. Elli Morrison Scrivner January 3, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    My kids have learned not to use “retarded” the way their peers do because I’ve explained each time that using “retarded” to describe ridiculous or foolish behavior is like saying “You’re so Uncle Michael,” or “Don’t be Kristi.” I understand that words evolve through common use, but this one really bothers me. My brother and my cognitively delayed children may have retarded development, but they are not “retards” – they are amazing, spectacular, accomplished people who work harder than the rest of us to do the same daily tasks. When I tell my kids they are just like Uncle Michael it means they are fabulous, brilliant people.

  101. Jen January 4, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    I have a very physically and mentally challenged little boy and discussed this on my blog a while back. I never knew how offensive the word was until he came along. I didn’t know anyone who did not use the word retarded to mean something stupid. Everyone said it; children and adults alike. The word has been misused and abused and has very negative connotations today. It doesn’t mean something ‘nice’, as it no longer means a medical term. My oldest daughter plays piano and guess what one of her words is: retardando. Which is latin from retard meaning to slow down. It doesn’t mean stupid.

  102. Ceil Chapman January 4, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    The people that encourage you and support you are on your wave length. That’s what you need. The people that, on Christmas Eve, decide to criticize and be condescending…. are so wrapped up in their own world, they can’t possibly understand you, your family and the life that you must lead.
    Happy day, happy new year, happy everything!
    May you be blessed beyond your wildest dreams…<3

  103. Aaron Vogt January 4, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    This is a fairly good point, however my daughter has Down Syndrome. She attends a mainstream school and one of the rules there is don’t use the “S” word (stupid)
    So substituting the “S” word for the “R” word is still not that great..
    I agree with the article otherwise

  104. Lexi January 4, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    Thank you for explaing the views many share! I was raised with a habit and a preference to avoid using the word “retarded” because of societies misunderstanding of the true meaning and correct usage of the word. I have an aunt who was clinically diagnosed as having “mental retardation” (back when impairment of any kind usually landed you in an institution). She was eventually placed in a wonderful foster home for the mentally/physically challenged and they have been incorporated in being considered family. Growing up I was raised knowing the true meaning of “retarded” and being offended at the improper usage due to my close connection with the true representation of the meaning. I am so grateful for your ability to place my family’s thoughts and opionions into this wonderful explanation! Thank you for sharing!!!!

  105. Stephanie Gotlib January 4, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    Hi Guys

    We have lots of issues in Australia with the use of the word ‘retard’. It is well overdue that community attitudes started changing. We are the national peak body for children and young people with disability. We made a community service announcment last year for radio stations which was played nationally. It received limited air time as it was played for no cost. If you are interested, check it out on our facebook page I think as parents of kids with disability we need to inform people how inappropriate the use of this word is and the reason for this.

  106. Yin-Yee Shing January 4, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    You grabbed the words right out of my mouth and I am appreciative for writing and posting this. I am surprised/disappointed at the “friends” who have used this word in mine, my husband but especially my daughter’s presence, who happens to be special needs. Use the word once mistakenly without realising how insensitive it is I can forgive that but to do it again and multiple times … I wonder how many people go through life thinking and acting unconsciously. It’s sad, very sad! Shame on those of you.

  107. Lori January 4, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    I think you are missing the point. People are insensitive and it hurts people. I am someone who grew up stuttering. People would often look at me as if I were “retarded”. The words hurt and I applaud this mother for writing this post. We need to educate the world.

  108. Michelle Caez January 4, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    Beautifully eloquent….please ignore the psuedo-intellectual commentaries…sadly, some people just look for some way to upset people…responding in kind to them (not that phoebz4 did, but there were some understandably heated comments) not only gives them perverse pleasure in the power they have over you, but tends to weaken your own argument as the salient points get lost in emotion (tho, it is very difficult not to get emotional when dealing with such a heartfelt topic)…some people choose to not get it, some unable to get it due to their own empathic limits…I don’t know what, if anything, will get this point across to them. But for each of those people, there are many others having an ‘AHA!’ moment – and more still nodding in agreement, thanking phoebz4 for saying so poignantly what they have felt

  109. Dawn January 4, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    As a mother of an autistic child with profound disabilities, I say “Thank You” for this blog! I teach at a middle school and my students use the word “retard” without hesitation or thought. They can not understand why I get so frustrated with it. I plan on sharing this with my students today to hopefully provide some insight as to why I don’t allow this in my class!!

  110. Shannon January 4, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I was compelled to comment! Love this post! As a women who has been an advocate for individuals with disabilities for many years, I applaud this post. The word retarded is NOT a euphemism for being stupid…I have challenged many a friend about how offensive I find this word. Growing up, this word was likened to the worst swear words in our home. My mom had a passion for help speak for those who could not speak for themselves…this word was simply NOT ok, even from the mouth of an unenlightened middle schooler. I wish Maura all the success in the world…she has a tremendous advocate in her corner in you. Don’t let society put any limitations on you or her…you may find she can one day live on her own, even if that means that she hires and chooses her supports.

  111. Tim Lude January 4, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Amazing thoughts and what a Beautiful Daughter! I understand what the r word can mean. 38 years ago I was blessed with my little Brother Dan. He has down syndrome. He’s amazing! The love and caring he gives is beyond words! I’m ashamed to say if he hadn’t come into my life I might still be one of the idiots using the word. Thank You So Much!

  112. SouthernBelle January 4, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    The retarded are the angels of the world. You can use adjectives and verbs as nouns. Just because M Webster doesn’t classify it as a noun directly in the dictionary doesn’t mean that it can not be used as one. I’m not debating any other issues with you. The vernacular use and the “medical” use of the word both apply in the English language, but like many words it should be used with consideration of those around the speaker. This is a beautiful blog by a very caring mother who recognizes the difference between the two uses of the word and knows how the word can be hurtful.

  113. Pamila Ross January 4, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Thank you Jeff for defending our innocent one! I live you for it!

  114. Patti January 4, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Thank you for raising this topic. It is very important. I have a son who had a stroke at the age of 2. He is almost 15 now. His stroke left him paralyzed on one side of his body and with learning disabilities. I had the honor of listening to a presenation by a woman named Kathie Snow several years back about People First Language. Words are VERY powerful. Because Kathie’s presentation changed my life, i never use the R word under ANY circumstance. Many might be surprised to know that I do not use the following words either: special needs, challenged, handicapped, disabled (totally different than the words “has a disability”), autistic, and a host of other descriptors that are thought to be acceptable. You will be absolutely inspired by what you see and read. It is a wonderful way of thinking and I have adopted it into my life. I occasionally slip, but I do forgive myself. I try to gently educate others as to this enlightened way of thinking as well. I have been given permission by Kathy to link her information to my blog and I will share my blog with you. You should see an article titled, “My son is a person first”. In this short post, you will see a link called disabilityisnatural. When you click on this link, scroll down and you will see an article about People first language. I hope you love it and are as inspired by it as I am. Thank you again!!

    • Linda January 5, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Patti you are so right! Labels are the problem; all labels! No person can be defined by any label; none of us are that simple regardless of our IQ. Thanks for your post. I will be visiting that link.

  115. Bruce January 4, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Grammatical issues aside, if someone feels pain caused by my words or actions (even if unintentional), i see no reason to question their pain and no reason why I wouldn’t want to change.

    The posts I’ve read here made me think of 2 quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt.

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

    “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”

  116. Renee Threlkeld January 4, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Thank You for bringing awareness to this often miss Used remark. People amaze me with their insensitivity or perhaps simple lack of knowledge. I know that regardless of the circumstance you encounter in this life, you and Maura Will thrive simply for the understanding and unconditional love that you have for her. There should be more moms that are willing to speak up for their children and other who don’t have the voice (or means) to speak for themselves. God bless both of you!

  117. Jamie January 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Your daughter is absolutely beautiful. And I’m sure that her happiness, unconditional love and amazing self confidence is and should be an inspiration to everyone. Most “normal” people (I guess that’s what most would call it) only wish that they themselves could have half the confidence that Maura has.

  118. Dana January 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    First off, well done, very nicely written. Your daughter is, not only beautiful, but there is wisdom in those twinkling eyes. Please don’t be offended when isay, I wish everyone was ! a little retarded. Imagine what better world it would be with that level of love and acceptance. No, I don’t believe Maura is stupid, I think she’s capable of teaching us all lessons we couldn’t get otherwise!

  119. Kathy Simkus January 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    No one who has not walked in your shoes can understand the depth of hurt that words can cause. Our son had special needs and struggled thru the school system. During those years he suffered from the ignorance and bullying of some of his schoolmates and even an occasional teacher. Three months after he so proudly graduated from high school he dropped dead from a blood clot. I can tell you that those who tormented him thru the years suffered terribly from guilt and looked to us for forgiveness. We forgive because that is what Michael would want,really they have to forgive themselves and hopefully teach their children that words hurt, regardless of the definition in the dictionary. Thankfully Michael had many, many good friends that made up for the few who were cruel. Thank you for trying make people understand that words do hurt. God bless you and your daughter, treasure every minute you have together.

    • Corner Garden Sue January 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      I’ve been following the comments here. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your story. I’m sorry for the loss of your boy

  120. Andre' Magdelano (@METALISMO) January 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Nicely said!

  121. Melena January 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I am the proud Mama of a wonderful 13 year old daughter who has autism and is non-verbal. I know that for most parents in my position any use of the word retard (or any of its variations) is offensive, but my opinion differs. I am not going to be hurt or offended if the word is used to describe a persons actions because I see my daughters intelligence and I believe that 99% of the human race is more ‘retarted’ than she is. I know I am at times.

  122. Diane January 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    The “R” word ranks right up there with the “N” word and the “C” word of the top words I hate the most. God bless all the little children.

  123. Molly January 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    As a middle school teacher of kids with disabilities for twelve years, there is nothing worse than to sit in a placement conference with a family and tell them that the results of testing shows that their child is Mentally Retarded.
    I absolutely hate, because of the common use of the word, Retarded, by children and adults, that the all powerful DSMV4 continues to use this antiquated and overused term to classify a child’s eligibility for special education services.
    If one could witness the looks, confused, sad, devastated, angry, on the faces of the caregivers of this child… I dare say you’d never use the word Retarded in passing, casually, ever again.
    Thanks so much for this article.

    • mamaof4 January 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      very well said Molly!

  124. Kaiya Logue January 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks so very much for this. I deal with the same thing with friends. My son is special needs and the “R” word isn’t allowed.

  125. Meh. (@HeyItsHigbe) January 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Much appreciated post. A few days ago I posted on Facebook something to the effect of, “Do you use the word ‘retard’ as a slur? If so, why?”

    The amount of vitriol from that post has actually ended a friendship (not a bad thing). People can carry on about their First Amendment rights and whatnot; when a group of humans is maligned so one person can feel superior, that’s where I draw the line.

    You have a beautiful daughter and you write so eloquently. Thanks.

    • Dot McFarlane January 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Hey, what an excellent idea you have!! I may do the same thing on FB, then sit back and wait for the excitement. The more we educate, the better!! Many times perfect strangers have even called my friend Lisa the R word right to her face, for absolutely NO reason. I HATE that!!!!!!!!

      • Lori September 26, 2012 at 1:04 am #

        I just did exactly that on FB–and it led me to this blog! What a wonderful blog, and it was enlightening to read how many people agree with me.

  126. Bonnie January 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    nicely said!!

  127. pressedforcash January 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Thanks for this. I always used to feel so silly for being offended when people used retarded to mean stupid, even when I knew they said it without malicious intent. This sums it up perfectly. Thanks, again!

  128. T'smom January 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. So much. My nephew with special needs received terrible – arguably malpractice – care and had to have a needless amputation in part because he has a high tolerance for pain and cannot care for himself as far as taking meds so his needs were neglected and ignored – infuriating! I also thank you because I am feeling “slow” today after a medical procedure and of course it makes me appreciate the unslow days that much more..Finally, your daughter is adorable and your description of her inspiring. I came to mommyhood later in life and relate totally to our little ones are smarter than we are! (mine is almost 3). Thanks again and I will be even more careful about language (I am already).

  129. Jimette Brady January 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm #


  130. special ed teacher and mom January 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    @ Anti PC…with your user name in mind, I am guessing this is what you do all day. You surf the net and find people of various groups and spew your rhetoric of how you are so much more enlightened than they. Last time I checked, “idiot” was not a medical diagnosis. So really, the two terms (idiot and retarded) cannot be compared. No one is harnessed, medically speaking, to the term idiot. Although there are some who seem to work very hard at earning that label. If the shoe fits…

    Also, so very brave of you to only comment to posts, never to post your own comments so people can reply directly back to you and are forced to piggyback on another persons’ comment.

    I love the article and the author is dead on accurate.

  131. Sally January 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you for writing down my own thoughts on the matter far better than I could have done. Of all the blog posts in all the world on this subject, you have summed it up the very best. Thank you. Just thank you.

  132. grace January 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    As a special needs parent , You phoebz4 have my permission to correct anyone who uses the english language in a disrespectful, hurtful, demeaning way. If they have freedom of speech, So do we! Call yourselves ignorant, stupid at the checkout line, and see what people think of you. There is nothing positive about the word R*#*#*#*, N*&%$$, or F*&#, I am sure these words will come to mind quicker for some than others. Maybe you are just developmentally delayed , emotionally delayed, or just plain ignorant, in not understanding how this word as Phoebe states bothers the parents and the siblings.Is it too much to ask for people to be kind these days.Be sensitive to those less fortunate around you. Walk in another persons shoes before you start throwing stones. Your daughter is beautiful, and you are more so for being the woman you are, in advocating for her. To all the english masters criticizing my reply, kiss my A**

  133. Karen January 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Wow! Wonderfully stated! I dislike it when people say that, it has always bothered me…maybe because I used to work at a childrens home when I was a teenager. Your daughter is beautiful and God made her in his own image, need I say more? =) You have been chosen & blessed to have herk, just as she is also blessed to have such a fabulous mom and family!

  134. Michelle January 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Thank you for writing this beautiful statement. We have a daughter with Down Syndrome who is 25 years old and it does get tiring hearing people use the r word inappropriately. I have heard it used inappropriately at church, in the work place, at school, when shopping, on the playground, at the nail place, etc.Your message is one that we must continue to reinforce. You have done a beautiful job in writing this. Thank you and have an amazing 2012!!!!

  135. Virginia from That Bald Chick January 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm #


    I was mistakenly diagnosed as being “mentally retarded” at the age of three, because of physical limitations (namely hearing loss and a fine motor deficit secondary to skin erosions). While the diagnosis was incorrect, the phrase has always chafed. My nephew, now 13, has behavioral and cognitive deficits. Like your daughter, he will never live alone. Again, like your daughter, he is far from stupid. I hope your post goes viral, and I have done what I can to help it along the way (tweet, Facebook, Stumble, etc).

    May the Lord bless you for your courage in speaking out against the callousness some people show.

  136. Michayla January 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I’m not sure if you actually read your comments but I’ll assume you do. I absolutely LOVE this. I run a page on Facebook called Mama’s Uncensored. I banned the word ‘retarded’ from being used and these women just don’t get why… I just shared your blog post and I hope they understand better now. Your daughter is beautiful.

  137. Julie January 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Beautifully written! Thanks for sharing your heart. I have a 13 y/o daughter with autism who is the sweetest thing I’ve ever encountered. It hurts me tremendously when people use that word so flippantly. I don’t jump on people either, but I try to draw their attention to using the word as a replacement for stupid. Almost all the people I have said something to have responded apologetically. I think it is great to shed light on a subject that I think many of them don’t realize is even hurtful. Often times it takes making people aware one by one.

    Blessings to you!

  138. lizditz January 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Hi Phoebe,

    I shared your lovely post at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism Facebook Page

    Already receiving admiring comments.

  139. martin January 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    There was a campaign not long ago with celebrity support to end the use of the word “gay” with negative or stupid connotations. Iow: “that’s gay” “that was so gay”. The “r” word has been used just as offensively and it’s high time people start using their words in a more civilized, educated and decent way. There is no excuse for neurologically typical people to continue behaving thus.

  140. CarolN January 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Awesome post. It is hard in the moment to correct some people, especially those that are close friends, when you have a family member that is cognitively challenged. Your explanation was very eloquent! Thank you for sharing you thoughts 🙂

  141. beth ann January 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I think you wrote this very well!! I have 3 boys with disabilities. (autism, delays, & some impairments) My oldest son last year was diagnosed with MR. But thats ok, I love him for who he is!! He may not know every thing he should for his age, but once again, thats ok!! Kids with MR & other disabilites have a huge heart!

  142. Dave Corlew January 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    This post hit a grand slam. Very well written – very real and insightful. I shared it on Twitter and Facebook.
    I have been guilty of using this word in a careless and ignorant way. Thanks for hitting me with a velvet covered brick!

  143. Gabriel K. (@NobleSasquatch) January 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    “Last time I checked, “idiot” was not a medical diagnosis.”

    Sorry, but Anti-PC is right. It’s absolutely hypocritical of you to at once denounce use of the word retarded while calling someone an idiot. BOTH of those terms are outdated ways of talking about persons with mental disabilities, both of them are used loosely in our society and inappropriately, and if you are so vehemently against using one then you need to be against both. Ask yourself: would you really feel better if someone referred to a person with an intellectual disability as an “idiot” or if they referred to them as “retarded”? No, you’d be equally horrified. So by calling him an idiot in the way that you did, you just proved the point made by others here which is that words themselves are nothing without their meaning and intent.

    And please, to those of you here who have children with disabilities or who are, like myself, a special needs educator, don’t believe that your personal experience gives you the right to believe yours is the only correct perspective. People outside of our community have the right to express their opinions without being called idiots, as much as we might not like what they have to say or how they say it.

  144. Stefanie January 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    You know, I have to say, I personally find this article more offensive than the word “retarded”. I may call myself retarded when I lose my keys, or am unable to find my car in a parking lot, or trip over a crack in the sidewalk, or spill hot coffee on myself, or any other number of things I may do. What I would NEVER call retarded is a beautiful, sweet, innocent, precious child with a learning disability like this person continues to do to their own child! This child’s diagnosis is cognitively disabled, NOT RETARDED!

    • phoebz4 January 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

      Before you spend more time being offended, let me explain this to you – something I’ve had to learn first hand. Cognitively disabled? Is just the PC term for mentally retarded/mental retardation. People are switching from MR to CI (cognitively impaired, which is how the school labeled her), but there is really no difference between the two.

      The reason why you’re so offended at me using the word “retarded” to describe my daughter? Is because society has put this negative spin on the word. Retarded hasn’t ceased to be a proper medical diagnosis, but it is now better known as an insult. Also, to state that my daughter is a “child with a learning disability” grossly downplays the reality we live with. But I am more well versed in the differences than the average person because I’ve had to learn them.

      To quote Wikipedia, mental retardation is defined as such –

      The signs and symptoms of mental retardation are all behavioral. Most people with mental retardation do not look like they have any type of intellectual disability, especially if the disability is caused by environmental factors such as malnutrition or lead poisoning. The so-called “typical appearance” ascribed to people with mental retardation is only present in a minority of cases, all of which involve syndromic mental retardation.
      Children with mental retardation may learn to sit up, to crawl, or to walk later than other children, or they may learn to talk later. Both adults and children with mental retardation may also exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:

      Delays in oral language development (which my daughter has)
      Deficits in memory skills (which my daughter has)
      Difficulty learning social rules (which my daughter has)
      Difficulty with problem solving skills (Which my daughter has)
      Delays in the development of adaptive behaviors such as self-help or self-care skills (which my daughter has)
      Lack of social inhibitors (which my daughter has)

      Moderate mental retardation (IQ 35–49) is nearly always apparent within the first years of life. Speech delays are particularly common signs of moderate MR. People with moderate mental retardation need considerable supports in school, at home, and in the community in order to participate fully. While their academic potential is limited, they can learn simple health and safety skills and to participate in simple activities. As adults they may live with their parents, in a supportive group home, or even semi-independently with significant supportive services to help them, for example, manage their finances. As adults, they may work in a sheltered workshop.

      (My daughter’s IQ tested at 48).

      To quote Disabled World

      Defining cognitive disability is not easy, and definitions of cognitive disability are usually broad. Persons with cognitive disabilities may have difficulty with various types of mental tasks.
      Intellectual disabilities, also known as developmental delay or mental retardation, are a group of disorders defined by diminished cognitive and adaptive development. Affecting more males than females, they are diagnosed in between one and three percent of the population.

      If you do a search for “cognitively disabled” on the Mayo Clinic website, you get zero results.

      But thank you for your concern. Hopefully I’ve explained this in a way you can understand. I don’t actually go around saying “Wow, my daughter is SO retarded!” When we explain her to people, we simple state that she has special needs, because in fact – we have no diagnosis that explains why she has all her different issues and impairments.

    • mamaof4 January 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      I have a daughter who is severely developmentally delayed. She was born with a rare chromosomal deletion. Among her many medical diagnosis is MR which means mentally retarded. It is a real diagnosis, just like her heart problems (vsd, pda, and pfo) are a real diagnosis. The fact is that the word retard should not be used as a put down. How would you like it if every time someone did something that they felt was stupid they said “ugh, I’m such a Stefanie” or when their friend was annoying them they said “stop being such a Stefanie” I can’t imagine if the very word that a doctor used to describe my condition was the same word that people used as a put down. And even though many times when people use the word “retarded” they may not be using it as a medical term – we all know what it means. It is just like when kids say things like “you must ride the short bus to school” to another kid. Maybe they aren’t trying to be hurtful to the children who really do ride the “short bus”, maybe they are just trying to be hurtful to the person they are talking to – but the fact is that it is that it is way more hurtful to the children who really do ride the short bus, then to the kid who doesn’t. I don’t understand why it is so hard for some people to have some compassion and just stop using such a hurtful word – but instead they have to argue their right to use the word or weather or not it is hurtful. Well of corse you have the right to use any old word you want. We are just letting you know it is hurtful and if you don’t care than fine. But don’t argue the fact that it is hurtful – because anyone who works with a person who is developmentally disabled will tell you that this word is hurtful when it is used so casually to describe a “stupid” action. And don’t try to place blame on the loving parents of those with special needs, simply because they are standing up for their children!!!!!!!!

  145. Andrea January 4, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    I’m so glad that you posted this! I work at an Alternative Education school and though I do not work with the special needs class I intereact with the students on a day to day basis. They are precious. They can see a light and an understanding in the world that none of us will ever see. I hate it when people use the word retarded to replace stupid because you’re right that’s not what it is at all and I think it is really difficult for people to see how misused the word is until they are around someone that is truly retarded. The other children at the school, who are not in the special needs classes, have most of them learned that they shouldn’t replace the word stupid for retarded and are very offended when other people do. I know that maybe this post won’t reach everyone, but like the kids at our school maybe it will reach a few. God bless you and your family. Your daughter looks like a sweetie pie. 🙂

  146. Bonnie January 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I use that word as well and never has it felt so wrong. I don’t personally know anyone who is mentally impaired so I’ve never thought about it from your perspective. I am sharing this on facebook and I hope others feel the same way I do after reading this. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me…is a complete lie. Bruises and broken bones will heal, but the pain of someone’s words can never be healed.

    • mamaof4 January 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      well said!

  147. Barbara January 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Amazing post. Someone posted it on Facebook today. Definitely going to SHARE this one. Very well said.

  148. Leslee Rudd January 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I am raising my 3 grandaughters. I dont care how the word is used, noun, adjective.verb, etc. I was never good in English class. Here is what I do care about. My oldest grandaughter is “intellectually disabled”, Thats how we say it. But it doesnt mean she dont know anything. (Did I word that right?) On the contrary. She just has to be reminded to get things finished. Sometimes several times. She may not be able to read and write like you and I but she can tell a remarkable story just by looking at the pictures. She wants to be like everyone else but she knows and understands that she is not. She is loving and caring. Give her music, and yes she has some RAP, she can listen to a song and sing it word for word with just a few listens. There are many positives but if I started to list them all I would be here a LOOOONG time. In a nutshell if this is what retarded means.. Then I would much rather hang out with with her than with the folks who have no real idea what it means.

  149. mamaof4 January 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I am a parent of a child with special needs. She has a rare syndrome called 1p36. I would like to share an “open letter” that I posted on my fb page sometime ago.

    Dear Sequoya,
    I guess I have to explain to you what the word “retard” means and why some people think it is okay to use that word to put down people who do stupid things or far worse to make fun of people who like you have special needs. But honestly there is no explanation. God gave them gifts that he didn’t give you such as the ability to walk, talk, and learn academics on time. But God gave you some special gifts too, the ability to see wonder in things the rest of us take for granted, a family that loves you unconditionally and will always fight for you to get what you so need. He gave you the ability to feel compassion, love, and joy, to feel pride in the little things because you know how hard you’ve worked to accomplish them. And God gave you the gift of teaching those around you sooo much everyday. We will pray for others to have the same gifts and to learn how hurtful their words can be. I hope you will never have to hear them.

    Dear people who think it is okay to use the word “retard” for a put down,
    It is not okay. That term is still used as a medical diagnosis even though it is a slur against people with special needs. One day you might understand the power behind words like this. Until than take it from me, it is not okay and please stop doing it, and please teach your children that it is a hurtful word and not to use it.
    On paper my daughter carries the label MR (mentally retarded). How do you think it feels to be diagnosed as the very thing used to make fun of others?

    Dear people who purposefully make fun of those with special needs,
    You are in the same category as extreme racists and child molesters. Good luck on finding your way into heaven. And good luck on finding happiness in life. By the way I am not really wishing you luck, if it were up to me you would not exist. But I do hope you change your ways.

    Every step Sequoya takes is another little mericle. Her heart beating and her lungs working are an answer to prayer. The words she babbles or signs which are barely understandable are some of the most eloquent words ever spoken. She has worked so hard to accomplish the things that the rest of us do naturally. Don’t take those accomplishments away.

    • mamaof4 January 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      Okay, I was very angry when I wrote this about a year ago. I didn’t reread it before cutting and pasting. I wish I would of edited it before posting, but I can’t figure out how to edit it now. It is way more forceful than I realized. I wanted to post something more positive, but I guess what is done is done. Anyway, thank you for this blog, I enjoyed it 🙂

  150. Claire January 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I love the way you explained it all. Definitely shared on my fb.

  151. Ashley Endlich January 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Beautifully written. As an aunt to boy with Down Syndrome I have never quite had the words on how to defend my little man when I hear harsh words. I may use yours. Bless your little one, she’s adorable.

  152. Linda Oliver January 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Beautifully written & well said. Thank you.
    God Bless.

  153. Chevi January 4, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    You said it with the grace I have not yet found. Thank you. I too am sharing on FB.

  154. Mom of a child with mental retardation January 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article! My son, who is 6, has a diagnosis of moderate mental retardation. When we received the diagnosis, the neuropsychologist that gave it said, “This term is changing to cognitive impairment, but right now we have to say he has moderate mental retardation.” She thought I would be horrified by that diagnosis, but we were just glad to FINALLY get one. We may not know WHY, but we know WHAT he has.

    And about my son…he also:

    ….loves unconditionally.

    …finds joy in the smallest of things.

    …is self-confident.

    …doesn’t realize that there are limitations.

    …has complete innocence.

    These are things he will ALWAYS have, despite how old he gets. I’m very sad to see some of the posts on here. This obviously does not touch their life in any sort of way, and are “offended”. Until you walk a mile in our shoes, please don’t judge us because we don’t like that word used so loosely.

    • mamaof4 January 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm #


  155. Leslie A. McCready January 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Before I became a nurse I worked as a caregiver to mentally challenged people who lived in group home settings. I can certainly attest to the fact that these wonderful people are not stupid. I’ve explained to my son that a person who is “retarded” just learns differently than we do. I have raised him to respect people no matter what challenges they face, and I absolutely do not allow him to use the “r” word.

  156. J. A. Carleton January 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    I can’t stop crying…thank you for putting this into such beautiful, honest, powerful words. You described not only your daughter, and my daughter, but sons and daughters of some of my most treasured friends across this country. Thank you! God bless you! Thank you! Thank you! Oh my word…did I say Thank you???
    Adelli Carleton, momma of CarleyGray, the light of my life!

  157. special ed teacher and mom January 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    I am not condoning the use of the word idiot—or any negative, hateful word. I am however pointing out that the reason the word retard or retarded is different is because their are people who have that word attached to them by the medical and educaional world…the world in general as a matter of fact. No one has the word idiot beside their name at the doctor’s office or a school.

  158. Sam Felsenfeld January 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm #


  159. phoebz4 January 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    1/4/12 – Closing this to comments for the moment because I can’t keep up with them all! LOL!

    (I have to approve each comment that makes it past my spam filter. As much as I love the feedback – it’s time consuming and my children are still on their Christmas holidays!)

    1/5/12 – comments opened up again for the day 😀

  160. Denise January 5, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    Just beautiful.

  161. Tara Sabattis January 5, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    I also agree with what you have said here. Never did you try to offend anyone with foul language. You just stated that Retarded has a meaning and how people use the word may be offesnsive. So to those people who use retarded in an offensive way shame on you! To all the Moms out there with Retarded children GOD BLESS YOU! Retarded is not a bad word.

  162. lynne January 5, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    My fourth daughter was also diagnosed with mental retardation. I am just getting used to understanding her diagnosis add well as trying to use the PC word of it, after many years of using it as a word just like stupid. Thank you for writing this, I have so much to learn.

  163. Jools January 5, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    I have tried, but could not put it as beautifully as you have here. My brother was retarded, he also got cancer and died. It hurts me every time I hear someone say it. Thank you for saying this how you said it and helping me to understand why I have such a big problem with it. xo

  164. suna January 5, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    thank you. i also have a developmentaly delayed child and struggle with this word

  165. Linda Paul January 5, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    The friends of my older children learned very quickly that the use of that word inmy home or around me was not going to be tolerated at all. Zero tolerance policy.

  166. Monica Johnson January 5, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Your daughter is beautiful. Please don’t give up hope. I have children with “specific learning disabilities.” It’s a field that’s often over-looked. Every day I tell myself that “people with learning disabilities can on to great things.” My 8 yr. is finally reading proficiently– yet she can barely write a paragraph– my 1st grader does well in Math– yet … oh well my kids are cute, nice, and healthy just likes yours— anyway I loved your article but please do not say that your child will never live on her own… she may surprise you and work around her disability— maybe she’ll become an artist, ballerina- yes people can be rude— yes I hate IEP’s– report cards….. & yes we are lucky to have such adorable kids…..

    • phoebz4 January 5, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      I haven’t given up hope – I just live in “Optimistic Reality”. I would love for her to prove us wrong, but realistically, she will probably need tending to for her entire life. And that’s okay – she’s a lot of fun to be around and is more adventurous than me sometimes!

  167. shell January 5, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    After reading your blog, I couldn’t believe U have made the assumption that your daughter will never live on her own. I have 6 kids. I have seen a lot. My youngest is labeled CI. I work everyday with severely autistic children. I believe they are all teachable at their own level. They will take lots of patience & time, BUT they will learn daily living skills. NEVER assume the future! Believe in your child! Pray for patience, pray for the energy to keep trying to teach over & over & over again. AND above all stop worrying about what others say or think! Put your energy into your daughter instead!!!!!!

    • phoebz4 January 5, 2012 at 9:07 am #

      I do believe each parent is the best judge of their child’s abilities. Our hope for Maura is the same as the other kids – that they reach their full potential. I would never ever tell another parent what I thought their child should be capable of. That’s just not how I work.

      My daughter is this strange blend of ability and disability. She can have less skills than my friend’s bright two year old – and yet, she can be surprisingly 8 years old. It would be AMAZING if she could live on her own. But we’re prepared for her to live with us as well. Admitting she’ll need lots of help all her life isn’t admitting defeat. I can be realistic without giving up hope. As long as she is still able to learn, we will still be teaching her.

      And trust me – no one believes in this child more than us 🙂

      • Cindy Urso January 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

        I think your daughter is extremely lucky to have the two of you as parents! (Two parents that obviously love her) Love and happiness are what I want most for my two children. If they can both have that, I will have done my job and be a very pleased mom, disabilities or not! We were told many things that were mostly negative when my daughter was born. I am very happy to say, she has shot them all to pieces! It was so much fun to go to doctors visits and watch the surprise in their eyes as they would see the new milestone my daughter accomplished! After all these accomplishments that she has worked on in her 21 years, there may be a day when my daughter can move out, we still aren’t sure ourselves. Someday we will find out soon I’m sure! I know she wants to!!! Not so sure I want her to!!!!! Really not sure her daddy wants her to!!! She is such a daddy’s girl…I don’t think there has been a day when I haven’t felt proud of either of my kids, ya know? From the day they were born, till today. The one great thing about kids with disabilities is that when they do things, you really do see how hard they worked to get there and you know in your heart just how hard it took them. What a great feeling of pride! Being a mom is the greatest job ever isn’t it?!

    • Corner Garden Sue January 5, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      I work with some students in high school who will never be able to live on their own. It is what it is.

  168. Vicki January 5, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    What a gift, thank you for sharing this & your world. You are a great mom.

  169. Linda Stinnett January 5, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    What a beautiful little girl Maura is! Thank you for so eloquently explaining this to the world. You are a wonderful Mom!!

  170. My Pajama Days January 5, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    I saw this on Facebook today – amazing words and a beautiful daughter. Hugs to you.

  171. nicole January 5, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Beautifully written post. I know its hard to continually correct people – be the vocab watchdog – but it does make a difference. I was one of those people who loosely used the word until I met a classmate in college whose brother was developmentally disabled. He expressed your same frustration & I haven’t used the word since.

  172. Teresa (Embracing the Spectrum) January 5, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    You are so right. I’m a teacher (special education at that) and I hear it used in the wrong way ALL DAY LONG. It drives me crazy. And they don’t understand what’s wrong with how they use it.

    And you’re daughter is beautiful!

  173. Kathleen Kavanagh Wargelin January 5, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You described my 13 year old daughter and our family perfectly. This was informative and insightful. My daughter will also need assistance for her entire life, and finally accepting that fact has been a huge relief. I have never met you, but I feel I AM YOU. We are now connected. Thank you again and again!

  174. Cheri January 5, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Thanks for the post, bummed to see the distractions with comments regarding noun or whatever. It is a hurtful disrespectful term to use. I have a mentally handicapped daughter who is now 18, been through many years of comments. Some you let go, some you do counter on the spot.
    Secret is, do not let it get to you, think of it as educating those who don’t have a clue. Most people don’t mean to be insensitive, although there are some arrogant people out there. Years ago while my son was in middle school, he did not answer something to the teacher correctly. Where the teacher responded “Are you retarded?” My son promptly, “no, but my sister is…” You could have heard a pin drop. That day this teacher learned a lesson that day the hard way, he knew our daughter’s handicap and medical challenges that she had faced. But that is life, we all make mistakes and hopefully grow.
    Thanks for a wonderful blog for those of us with special needs children, you can and do feel lonely out there sometimes. But each time my child smiles at me, hugs me, I am reminded the purest of love in the most beautiful simplicity. Not brainiac degrees, who is better, who has the biggest house or paycheck, etc etc all that society dictates the games we are to play. I feel more blessed and reminded of what life is really about, the purest of love, simplicity in life. How God intended for us to be
    For those grammar queens, please don’t bother. Gave up worrying about that a long time ago

  175. Amy S (@CrochetCyster) January 5, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I catch myself every now and then thinking or about to say it. Its been so ingrained in us as a word to use casually.

    I loved your post and have shared it with family and friends! Your daughter is gorgeous and (don’t take this the wrong way please) I am jealous of her innocence….

  176. Travis January 5, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    My friend has a autistic daughter and I h e slipped before an said retarded around him.I even sent him a forward that was mocking an autistic person. Not because I wanted to hurt his feeling or make fun of his daughter but because I didn’t think about it. I have laughed at disabled people and mentally challenges people and it’s an issue I’m working in but my point in saying this is not to make myself look bad but to reiterate that this words and these actions are so integrated into society. We need not hold anger against these people but remind them that those words and actions can and do hurt people. Thank you for your story.

  177. Ken U. January 5, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    This reply is intended for “special ed teacher and mom” – I had no reply button next to your name.

    You say: “I am however pointing out that the reason the word retard or retarded is different is because their are people who have that word attached to them by the medical and educaional world…the world in general as a matter of fact. No one has the word idiot beside their name at the doctor’s office or a school.”

    Your understanding of the word “Idiot” is exactly at the crux of this original blog and the point being made my Phoebe. “Idiot” is thought of as such a negative descriptor that people can not even imagine that it originally was a clinical term used by professionals in schools and institutions. Years ago, “idiot” and “moron” WERE clinical diagnoses. In the early 1900’s, “Idiot” was used to describe an adult with a mental age of two years our younger. “Imbecile” described someone with the mental age between 3 and 7 and “moron” described a person with a mental age of 7-10 years. Over time, these terms developed such a negative connotation that they became synonymous with “stupid” and were eventually done away with in the field because of the hurt associated with the term. At the time, those terms were replaced with the more clinical sounding term of mental retardation, which was given varying degrees of mild, moderate, severe and profound. What is happening now with the word “retarded” today is exactly what happened with the formerly clinical terms of idiot, imbecile and moron. Its association is moving away from a clinical diagnosis and is now being used by much of society to describe the same things that “idiot” would describe.

    So, yes, contrary to your statement, there are still people alive today with the word “Idiot” beside their name. I had occasion just last month to review the social history of a 93 year old man living in a group residence for people with disabilities. A note STILL IN HIS FILE, dated 1935, referred to Charles as a “handsome, feeble-minded idiot.” It was clinical. It was medical. Back then, it was not such a big deal. And 60 years from now, our society would find it reprehensible that a person was clinically described as being “mentally retarded.”

    All that being said, I must thank Phoebe for sharing such a moving post with all of us. Your words have made their way around my office and will surely touch many. Thank you.

  178. Rose Bachman January 5, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Even before working as a ParaProfessional, this term has always bothered me! You see, I have friends and family that are mentally or physically challenged! They have shown me true love, friendship & acceptance, I will defend them forever. In our classroom we have a cemetery wall & on that wall are words that r not acceptable, criticizing, hurtful, degrading & disrespectful, Retarded is a Cemetary word! Please think before u throw a word out there…..sadly, once spoken, u can’t take it back.

  179. Jane Smith January 5, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    This is an honest question…. Are you saying that it is ok to call people who have special needs “retarded”?

    I’m trying to work my way through this logically because it seems that the common opinion here is that one should not use the word “retarded” to refer to stupidity, etc. because it is a word that is, by definition, appropriately used to define people who are academically slow, developmentally delayed, etc.

    If this is the case, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to eliminate the use of the word altogether if it is so offensive, or to eliminate the use of it as a descriptive term for people with intellectual disorders, and leave the word as it is most commonly used today (i.e. as a term to describe something stupid, etc.)?

    I agree with you in the sense that if people, due to life circumstances, are offended by a particular word, I can choose from many other options of words to use. I’m intelligent enough to replace a potentially offensive one with a non-offensive one (that is until I find out what I thought was non-offensive has been associated with something offensive long enough that it has developed a new meaning or stigma – sigh…)

    I don’t use the word retarded at all (mostly because I don’t want to offend anyone) — not in the slang sense or in the medical sense, but I am hearing that you are saying that it is ok and proper to use it as a term for someone with special needs. This goes against what I followed as the periodic political correctness updating – from retarded to disabled to mentally challenged to having a disability, to exceptional, to special needs, etc.

    • phoebz4 January 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      Good question!

      Really, in the world, you should err on the side of caution and be PC with parents/caregivers until you know how they feel. Like me? I’m pretty open, laid back and have a warped sense of humor. I also try to give people the benefit of doubt. I’ve had friends who’ve asked me flat out “So what is wrong with her?” They’re not being mean, just sincerely interested. But some parents hate being asked “what’s wrong with your child?” If someone in the school setting asked “Does she have mental retardation?”, I wouldn’t be offended. In fact, to get her into the school she’s in now, I had to prove that she was moderately disabled (IQ under 50.) They weren’t asking to be mean, but to help. If some stranger at the mall heard her babbling and said in a snippy tone “What is she? Retarded?” I would probably shoot back with “No more than you.” LOL!

      Also, with many syndromes, part of the symptom list is “mental retardation” – like a certain percentage of children with autism will have some form of mental retardation. That’s just fact (which I learned from a friend who’s son has moderate autism.)

      So what I’m saying? Is keep it PC unless someone offers you. Because society has put a negative spin on something that is still being used as a medical diagnosis (as seen by people commenting about it here.)

    • Girl January 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Jane, you echoed my sentiments entirely!


  180. Heather January 5, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Thank you sooo much for this article. My 3 year old daughter is diagnosed with mild case of Cerebral palsy and Autism an she is far from being stupid. This ugly “R” word infuriates me. I have been trying to get at least our family to stop saying that word and they think Im being ridiculous. I will be printing this out and letting them read this.

  181. Maddy January 5, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    A friend of mine gave me this link – thank you so much for writing it and her for pointing me in the right direction.

  182. jonniasmith January 5, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    My youngest sister, who is now 34 forever going on 9, said something once which we now all quote in the family. Upon realizing someone was trying to pull one over on her, she announced, “I may have been born retarded, but I ain’t stupid!”

    Glad I found your blog! You have a new follower here.

  183. Joy January 5, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I have a mentally retarded sister, who lives with me. She’s 36, but will always be a ‘slow learning 12 year old’, according to her doctors. I have learned not to let these words bother me, it’s really a waste of precious time. Think about the words ‘idiot’ or imbecile’ – they were once words used in the medical profession to describe mentally retarded people as well. Now the word idiot is part of everyday language. I believe that words only have the power over you that you let them have. It’s hard for some people to know what to say, or keep up with the newest PC term. I try and look into their intentions, and if they mean no harm I may or may not say something to ‘correct’ them. Usually, I do not. I actually take lot of cues on this matter from my sister herself – if it passes by her unnoticed, or if she notices but isn’t upset by it, I let it go. It’s good that she knows people – all people – say dumb things sometimes, and it’s no reflection on her! Good luck to you and your sweet girl.

  184. Tory Zellick January 5, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Fantastic post!! Thank you. My aunt is developmentally disabled as well, and the word “retarded” makes my skin curl when used out of context. Shockingly enough (not so shocking to people who have someone like this in their lives), when my mom passed away, my aunt seemed to be the only one who “got it.” Her huge heart shined through like the sun on a cloudy day.

  185. C January 5, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Your daughter sounds wonderful despite of whatever disabilitie(s) she has. I think part of the problem is the term “retarded” used as a diagnosis. I wish there were more specific terms to use instead (and many times there are – Down Syndrome, etc.). Growing up, we might have used the word retarded to mean dumb/stupid and for the most part it was just an innocent slang term used when referring to OURSELVES or in joking fun to our friends (to mean they were acting dumb). NOT used to show any negative feelings about a “special needs” person or child. We would not have made fun of or bullied an actual mentally challenged person. I try not to use the term retarded to mean I did something dumb, but I don’t think it’s incorrectly used or anything. If it means mentally slow, then that is exactly what a person meant if they called themselves “retarded/a retard”. I certainly feel now and then like I didn’t “get it” or made a mental mistake – I’m sure everyone does sometimes. I just wanted to point out that when some people use the word, they might not be intending to insult anyone else. Like if I call myself fat, I didn’t set out to make medically obese people feel bad in some indirect way. I was just making a comment about myself, that’s all. I do understand though where you are coming from as a mom wanting to protect her beautiful children. And people could be more aware that if it offends people somehow then maybe they should just avoid the use of the word. But we also could try to take things lightly and realize that most are just mis-using the word or haven’t thought that it might offend. Yes, that might mean those people might be a little ignornant on the subject of mental disabilities or maybe they haven’t put themselves in the shoes of families dealing with these issues… but they are not meaning harm. Maybe just a gentle reminder or casual chat about it would be fine for them to realize that others are sensitive about the use of the word. Now if someone is bullying or making fun of an obviously meantally retarded person then that is another issue (and of course NOT ok)! But it’s not always necessary to get so bent out of shape – a lot of people will happily consider your point of view if you just take a second to explain why something bothers you. Also, I think most people realize that whether a person is actually mentally challenged or just having a dumb moment, they can still have lots of awesome strengths and positive qualities. I LOVE all the great qualities you mentioned about your daughter – she sounds wonderful. But I will respectfully say that I hope parents of special needs kiddos don’t unecessarily make themeslves (or their kids) “the victim” all the time. It’s good to try to teach our kids to enjoy life and not focus too much on the negativitity – not teach them to ignore the blatent mean hurtfullness (it’s ok to stand up for yourself or others in those cases), but to not make a bunch of controversy or drama when no ill-will was intended in the first place. Just because someone made a goofy comment without thinking it through, doesn’t mean they are out to get you or mean you any disrespect. They are human and imperfect as well.
    Thanks for all the interesting thoughts. I like seeing/reading others points of view. 🙂

    • Sharyl January 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      I think I can explain why the word is offensive. It is because it appears to make light of what actual retardation is – by equating a one-time lapse on your part with the day-to-day issues of a person suffering from mental retardation.

      To use your example of calling yourself fat: Say you were say 5-10 lbs overweight and called yourself fat within the hearing of someone 70 lbs overwieght. The other person may think “you don’t know what it’s like to be fat; have you ever been unable to find a chair that is comfortable, or had people look at you in disgust because of your size?” Or they may feel that if you think you are fat the how must you view them?

  186. kelsie January 5, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Thank you from a mama of two lil ones with autism 🙂 bless your heart for putting the truth out there

  187. motherallie January 5, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    You have said what I haven’t been able to say *nearly* as eloquently or succinctly. Thank you.

  188. C D January 5, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    You rock!

    My beautiful little boy with DS thanks you and I thank you for being so eloquent.

  189. Meli Peli January 5, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    I think you are right in the sense that there is no reason why we can’t say stupid instead of saying retarded when using that term in a self deprecating way etc. What I can’t make the connection with is how it is offensive when someone is calling a non-retarded person retarded. As you say, I don’t think the term is used maliciously. And in that sense I don’t know how it refers to your daughter being stupid. Is using that term insensitive? I suppose it is and I do believe there is no reason to unnecessarily offend someone. The problem is that in society there becomes an entire vocabulary of words we’re not “supposed” to use because it may offend other people or other people may not like that particular word. For me, if I call a friend a retard or say they are retarded there is absolutely no connection to an actual disabled person. They are not stupid, just like the friend I’m talking about it not stupid. It is a euphemism.

    All that being said, I can appreciate what you wrote. I don’t think I ever use this word out in public, but it has brought my attention to the subject and I will definitely think twice before using it again. It is not my intention to offend or insult anyone. Sometimes words can be more powerful than we think. In fact, sometimes words are the most powerful thing we have.

  190. Sandy January 5, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    I agree! You have a beautiful daughter! I will share this post on fb!

  191. Tiffany January 5, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Great post! My son is 17 and ‘cognitively disabled’ as well.

  192. runrehabrepeat January 5, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Thanks for writing this! I am a teacher of students with special education needs, but I have a homeroom of general education high school juniors. I hear them, and many other students in our school, using this word on a daily basis without a thought to what that word means. I read this post to them today and my entire homeroom listened quietly (something that does not happen often! 😉 ). I hope that they think before they speak next time because of your blog. Thank you for sharing your story!

  193. Mary Camacho January 5, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    This is awesome and so true!

  194. anitaryprince January 5, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    there’s two things I love about this post the first being that your daughter sound like a wonderful child, she is so lucky to have you and your family who clearly love her so much and help her with her difference.

    the second is full agreement, as I myself am labeled ‘socially and emotionally’ retarded. As was my little sister who was so severely disabled her entire life until she passed away due to immune system failure. Because of my social and emotional issues where mistaken as grief I was often misdiagnosed, however my little sister had been, and when I was younger the word retarded became taboo, kids would say it about her and I will admit violet fits would be the result, i hated it even as a child I could understand that was a bad word.

    it’s bothersome how people use it with such ignorance and don’t care who might hear or be offended. and I merely wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on the matter.

  195. K.A. Barnes January 5, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    My brother suffered brain damage in utero and is mentally challenged. His clinical diagnosis is “mentally retarded.” I’ll never forget the absolutely crushed look he had when he heard his doctor refer to him using a word that he’d only ever heard hurled as an insult on the playground. He’d learned at school that a “retard” was someone who was stupid and uncool that no one wanted to be friends with. And here was his doctor- a respected authority figure- telling him that that was exactly what he was. The doctor was not being malicious; he was simply stating the medical diagnosis. But the pain of hearing that word- in whatever form it takes- has always stayed with him. And me.

    And yes, “idiot” used to be a commonly used diagnostic term for mentally challenged people. (Read your Faulkner or Dostoevsky.) Just like “mongoloid” was acceptable for Down Syndrome folks. Both words were eventually if not immediately used to hurt and denigrate people and have fallen out of usage accordingly. The R word should follow.

  196. Serial Mommy January 5, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Thank you for sharing. I have a daughter (my middle daughter) who is borderline mental functioning. In layman’s terms, she’s borderline retarded (though from what I understand the DSM is getting rid of that word in 2013). In this house retarded and stupid aren’t allowed. Unfortunately for Jayda, she’s smart enough to understand the hurt and dislike behind that word. It seems that people forget how much words can and do hurt others. It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about caring enough for those around you, whether you know them or not, to consider how they feel about something you say. Prayers and blessings and thank you for standing up for your daughter, and others like her.

  197. Jennifer January 5, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    What I take from this post is I see a mother trying her hardest to protect her child from harm. Trying to shed some light on how the words we use sometimes not intending to be used maliciously are in fact hurtful.

    I have to say that I am guilty of using this word to describe myself or close friends when being : forgetful, clumsy, or using a word incorrectly. In any aspect, I was using the word to belittle myself/them, not even realizing how incredibly insensitive I was being.

    I am sincerely very sorry for having ever used it incorrectly and I will be conscious of it from now on and do my very best to never do it again. I have three children, I have been lucky enough not to have to have the same challenges as your family. I admire your strength and courage and I love the fact that a small action such as writing your emotion to what was intended to be read by friends and family has touched so many lives. It just proves that any small action can make a huge difference. Why not start with thinking more before we speak and not using words that don’t have a negative definition in a negative or derogatory way.

  198. Me January 5, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    I read most of the comments here and have my own opinion about this whole discussion… I don’t give power to anyone in my life and how I do that is by allowing people to be who they are and by setting boundaries. If I don’t like a particular person’s way of thinking or talking (racist, womanizing, etc…) I speak my truth on the subject, set a boundary that includes a consequence; “Please do not say that word or speak to me in that way or about that subject, if you continue to do this I will no longer have conversations with you”. I will not get into an argument or a debate with this person, but I will explore why I was so deeply triggered by an experience because I do not want to live my life being offended or angered by others actions. Usually my anger comes from feeling I am being forced to change who I am or because I feel I am trapped in being subjected to something I don’t want. Not the case. Never the case.

    It’s good that people have different opinions since there is almost never just one way to think about something. Personally, I have used the word “retarded” as a term of endearment toward my friend when he was being funny. I’ve also called him stupid. He does not take offense because he knows who I am and what I mean. I also don’t say things like that out loud in public. Not everyone knows who I am and what I mean. I don’t expect others to live in my world or to believe what I believe or act as I act. I expect myself to be accountable for what I say and do. If I hurt someone I don’t tell them they shouldn’t be hurt, I apologize knowing our definitions of words are not the same. I don’t have a mentally challenged person in my life, and I cannot know every offensive term for every condition or situation that exists in our world.

    All this being said, I can appreciate the mother who does not like to hear certain words said around her or her daughter, and I can also appreciate the people who don’t want to be told how or when to use certain words. Learning about each other and ourselves through interaction, respect and accountability is the best we can hope for out of anyone, but I wouldn’t hold anyone to that expectation but myself.

  199. Lori January 5, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    thank you for sharing this beautiful post! My son has CP with cogntive impairment/mental retardation/developmental delay- whatever you want to call it! Bottom line is that people use language too loosely and often don’t realize that they are missing the bigger picture.

  200. foole January 5, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Seriously though, I’ve used the word retarded in place of stupid until recently seeing sentiments like this. I’ve never made fun of a person who is mentally handicapped in my life, even as a little kid, and I also think the words “idiot” and “fool” were used to describe mentally handicapped people in origin as well. However it’s enough that family members ask us to stop using it because it is impolite for me to stop using it. Extending a small amount of decency by changing one word in one’s vocabulary is absolutely no work whatsoever.

  201. Dana January 5, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Maura is an absolutely beautiful angel. I hope she never has to experience the feeling that you and the rest of your family are all too familiar with.

  202. Kelly wollinger January 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    Thank you for such a poignant reminder of how offensive a word can be. I am surprised how many adults use this word, in front of me, knowing we have a son who (should I ask for the results of his periodic school IQ tests) would be MR. MR is a medical diagnosis. It is a number, which if you fall below, classifies a person.
    Reading this post on Facebook brought tears to my eyes this morning and I want to thank you for putting into words how negatively impactful this word is. Thank you for making me feel that today. So often, we go through each day numb to our feelings (I believe we are tougher than most – sometimes to a fault) and this message gave me clarity and a lot of emotions that are good to feel again. Sometimes surviving, with a person with disabilities is challenging, but I have a renewed sense of empowerment today!

  203. KaylieAnn January 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    I say this….who are you to “accept” when the doctor’s labeled your daughter retarded in the first place??? I work with and see children every single day of my life and aside from my degree in special education, I have been taking care of children since the age of 12. There are many children that I work with, whose parents bring them to the school that I work at, that I don’t think they are really much different. They say every pregnancy is different, so thus every child is different (This goes hand in hand with every parent that thinks their child has ADD and ADHD). I see the most struggle with children with “Down’s Syndrome” formerly known as “Mongoloids”. Still, with “Down’s Syndrome” they preform their everyday tasks, sometimes outdoing others (like every child that outdoes some children in ANY area), they just sometimes lack what society calls the “norm” as far as creativity goes. Who cares???? They are still living, breathing, loving, smart people of society, and will be able to vote just as you and I do when they turn 18 years old. I say this, I too think that you need to get over the negative stigma, personally, it’s not worth your time. Like I said, I work with some pretty amazing children everyday, and the people that come in and out of my life, some understand, some don’t, either way, I don’t care. I don’t get caught up on the word, “retarded” only because for me, I know that people are ignorant to it’s usage, and I don’t think ANY one of my kids are retarded just because SOME DOCTOR decided to label my child as such. It’s not denial, it’s reality. This world and this life is what you make of it, not what someone else labels it as for you. So, personally, this is going to irritate you, but I have a friend with twins that the good ole DOC describes as “challenged” that thought the same as you until I said this to her. I think that until you get past the negative stigma, you will never truly help your daughter flourish the way that she needs to, stop looking at her as slow, and stop letting society tell you that it’s a bad thing, stop listening to the doctor’s and just raise your daughter how you see fit. Some kids need tutor’s, some kids don’t, that doesn’t make them, “retarded” or “non-retarded”. You’re getting caught up in a word, that obviously you think that your daughter is, which is wrong of you, because technically then you could “retard” her learning by thinking this way, but then you go on to say all of these things that you think “excuse” her and make her special. Stop thinking of your beautiful little Maura as retarded, she’s not and she’s special in your eyes just like everyone’s child is to them, doing this will rest your anxiety towards others misuse of the word and in turn, it will iron itself out on it’s own. So, stop thinking of your daughter as such, and you will stop taking offense to it, your only hurting her by believing what society and the doctors have set up for her.

    • phoebz4 January 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      Who am I? Her mother. One of the two best judges of who Maura is. I accept her for who she is – a beautiful little package of happy. All the other stuff – the delays and issues – are just what come with the package. But having been the one who’s taken her to all the specialists, the one who’s waited for the many many test results (all of which came back normal except the first EEG), the one who has sat through years of therapies – I’m pretty sure I’m a better judge of who my daughter is and what her abilities are than anyone else. Except maybe my husband 😀

      • nancy January 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

        I absolutely LOVE your quote of a “beautiful little package of happy”…..Keep smiling and hugging that little girl and she is going to go so far in life…:)

    • Kara January 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      You obviously missed this woman’s whole point! She actually made point to mention that while others view retardation negatively she sees it as “loving unconditionally…finding joy in the smallest of things.…being self-confident…not realizing that there are limitations….innocence.” She is not seeing her daughter in a negative light she is asking others not to use an offensive term that has hurt many people with intellectual disabilities. It’s ridiculous for you to assume that since you work with children with special needs that you would ever know more about her own child then she does especially since you have never met either of them. Do you really think you know more then every doctor out there? Refusing to acknowledge her disability will not help anything! If anything it would be detrimental to the poor girl! The answer is not to ignore the disability and refuse her diagnosis. The key is embracing who you are and who your children are and understanding that disabilities are not horrible they are just obstacles to overcome and one small part of an individual. As an educator I am shocked to hear someone who teaches children with disabilities to have such an ignorant and blind view of how to treat and teach children with disabililties. Being properly diagnosed is key to allowing a child with special needs to recieve all of the help they may need in order to live up to their full potential. Twenty years ago many people had views like your’s and that’s why so many people with special needs slipped through the cracks and were just treated as though they were stupid or screw ups because they did poorly in school. Now we understand that it is vital that we understand people’s disabilities to properly supply them with the assistance and care they may need to succeed in everyday life. I know many people with mental retardation who live happy and successful lives and they didn’t get their pretending their disabilities didn’t exist. They got there by having a strong support group who understood their disabilities and allowed them the proper care and education to meet their needs. If you are truly an educator then I suggest you sign up for some training courses because your understanding of individuals with disabilities is extremely out of date and down right detrimental to the people you are working with. Oh and mental retardation has more to it then just a child who needs a tutor and one that doesn’t so before you ramble on like this again try to at least have someone accurate assumptions.

  204. mary January 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Thank you !! I am sending this link to everyone I know. People don’t mean to be hurtful, they just need a reminder every now and then.

  205. deirdre January 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Thank you, well said! I have a son with Down Syndrome, but we call it ‘Up Syndrome’! He is 34 & doing amazingly well!
    Your daughter is adorable!
    I also work with the cognitive disabled getting jobs for them also have coached & ran Sp. Oly. Programs. I am so blessed learned so much, and have amazing stories from each of them!!!

    • Gigei January 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Love it! Up Syndrome. Blessings…

  206. nana January 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    How lucky and blessed she is to have you as her mom. Many years ago..and I can’t remember the book..I read one of the final steps to enlightement was living a challenged life. Perhaps our souls get to make the choice as to the challenge, but that vision of being so much closer to the divine has forever changed my thoughts when I see any individual with a “disability”. Old souls. Be well

  207. Katy Epling January 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Thank you so much. My little guy has Down syndrome, and I have been fighting this same battle with you.

  208. James Scott January 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I don’t usually comment on blogs I stumble upon. However this article really pulled on my heart strings. Thanks for the terrific read!

  209. scott January 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Guilty as charged. And I know better. I promise I’ll do my best to use other words. Your daughter seems to be a beautiful person, like other disabled people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Thanks for setting me straight. I needed it.

    • Gigei January 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      Scott, I love when people say to me, I’m sorry I use that word never realizing the impact it has, I think I feel better when someone is as honest as you and admit to it. I make mistakes every other second and I think all this mother wants to do is to create awareness not judge.
      Good for you to be so Honest, hopefully you can make others aware of it too.

  210. Kay January 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Hello! Thank you so much for your post. I’m sure you know how exhausting it is to keep telling people not to use the “r” word. Most of the time, I get so emotional that I let it slide, so I’m constantly beating myself up about it. I know people don’t use it maliciously, but it still hurts and I just want to scream at all of them. My son has CP and Dandy Walker Malformation, he is in a wheelchair, is non-verbal and has a lot of medical issues. I also work as a behavioral therapist for children diagnosed with Autism. People just have NO IDEA how amazing special needs people are. “Special” isn’t even a sufficient enough word to describe how incredible and selfless they are. Your daughter is beautiful! Thank you so much again!

  211. Michelle January 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    I loved your blog. I too feel the word retarded is misused. But having a child with a deadly type of dwarfism has given me a new perspective on words in general. Take the word “midget”. It is offensive to dwarfs or little people. Education became a necessity in our family once we had our son. Family members, friends and even strangers would use that word to his face. Inappropriate to say the least. So education became a big part of our world. But we also found people that would call their average height children “midget” out of some type of endearment towards them. I found myself confused…do I educate or correct them as well? When our son passed away from his dwarfism I noticed people saying “that run about killed me” or “I almost died of embarrassment”. Well they were not about to be killed or die as my son had. Through these extreme experiences I have found that we all misuse words but ultimately we have become too sensitive when it impacts us directly. We can’t control what others say or do but we can control our reaction to it. Just some thoughts.

    • sks January 11, 2012 at 12:20 am #

      Very realistic! I like the counter balance and with your experience it is sincere and not rude. Very well expressed. I’ve been learning recently that people really don’t mean to be rude for the most part. They don’t live your life (and you don’t live theirs) so if they are receptive and you want to keep them in the picture you can correct them, but you can also let it slide and if they are still in the picture later they will self correct.

  212. Renee Anne January 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    I won’t lie: I’ve used the word (almost 100% of the time I use it in terms of me being unable to grasp something or being much slower than “normal” to learn it). I work in education (well, I did before I became a stay-at-home mom). I know what the word means. I know when it’s appropriate (or, rather, when it makes sense…appropriate isn’t the word I want) and when it’s being used to describe something else (most often I hear it in the “I’m so retarded” use meaning “stupid”).

    Unfortunately, the word is so ingrained into society as meaning “stupid” and most people don’t know the difference, especially kids. They learn it from hearing their parents and others in the general society using it. I’ve tried to correct the usage but it usually falls on ears that only selectively hear what they want to hear. As much as I hate to say it, the word has just become part of everyday use and people use it flippantly. In education, we’re not allowed to use the word to describe children, regardless of their disability (or lack thereof). I could not say, “Well, Johnny is retarded,” regardless of whether he has a cognitive disability. If he had a cognitive disability, the above sentence would be correct in essence but the message would be that he’s stupid, not slow…which, again, just goes back to the common use of the word.

    If I could go on a crusade about this word and it’s proper usage, I would. I just don’t think the world is ready for it.

    And you’re right, most people don’t use the word in a malicious manner. At least there’s some saving grace in that…

  213. Vappy January 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    I’ve been trying to use that word less and less, but sometimes habits are hard to break 😦 I think my main problem is that I’ve never considered PEOPLE as “retarded,” and grew up with the word describing more of a situation. I’ve always thought/referred to the human aspect by other terms. It’s a hard change in terms to make after it becomes such a habit that you never realized was associated with a problem like this for years 😦 I may not know you personally, but I want to apologize.

  214. Anna Marie January 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Preach it, sister! Amen! My sister is a special needs adult, and was diagnosed “borderline retarded” as a child. She has come so far! But I am constantly having to ask friends and others to please not use that word when they are talking about something “stupid”. Sometimes I ask them to think how it would feel if every one else substituted THEIR name in place of how they used “retarded”. Not too good of a feeling, huh? So glad you took the time to write about this here. I am going to share it on my FB page…that is how I saw it….a dear friend posted it on hers. Let’s change the incorrect usage of this word.

  215. Hugs to You January 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Great article. The only point that I really cringed at: “She may never live on her own. Scratch that. She will never live on her own.”
    I TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY believe in manifestation. If you SEE her able to care for herself, really see it, believe it, every day, it will manifest.
    And for you non-believers: It can’t hurt.

  216. chloeandcharlottesmom January 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    LOVE LOVE LOVE. I completely agree with your entire message and want to share this with everyone I know. I have my own blog ( and I would like to direct my readers to this. Amazing!

  217. chloeandcharlottesmom January 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    …and another thing….for all of the readers who misinterpret your point behind this blog post and can’t see your perspective, they probably don’t have special needs children of their own, so they will NEVER understand. Even if they work with Spec.Ed. It takes one to know one, and I am one to know.

  218. Gigei January 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    And I am supposed to RELAX about the word, really? how do you know as some assume here that the word affects me more than my child? Maybe it does affect him/her, maybe my child understands everything that is said around him!

    When teens use this term they go by this dictionary:
    Look at the picture there… Amazing how others can over analize some things and judge so quickly, a noun, adjective who cares! whatever you want to call it, It hurts! People who are using this word are using it to describe someone as “slow, Goofy, and many other words that are not nice. STOP USING IT and if you don’t agree with what she wrote keep it to yourself, believe me our world is full of stress, pain and many other things, NOT because of our kids but because people like some of you that lack tolerance and understanding, I DO NOT ASK FOR PITY I just don’t need more added stress in my life.
    An example of not understanding is when you, being realistic and knowing what you are dealing with say: my child will not live on his/her own. Immediatly some assume you gave up on him/her, that you do not believe he will ever be able to do that (living on his/her own) but for me is different… I know that based on my child’s disability and the degree of it, my child will not live on his own and I have to be realistic so that I can prepare for the future, does that means that I give up? that I do not believe he will be capable of doing that? NO!
    I never stop teaching my child and never ever give up on my child but I have to be realistic and prepare for the future so when the time comes I am not living in a fantasy world, as someone said here, it is what it is and I am ok with that. My child is a blessing to me just the way he is. PERIOD.

    PS: I am going to defend myself here before I am attacked about my grammar, my first language is not English. Thanks for understanding! Ü

    • Janice Ogden January 11, 2012 at 12:21 am #

      I am the Grandmother of an Asberger grandson and the cousin of a 45 year old mentally disabled young lady. Everyone said that niether one of them would be able to do things own thier own. Well my 22 year old grandson was finally potty trained at the age of ten. He was classified MR at the age of 6, he learned to read at grade level by the end of second grade, he was a whiz at history, he never did conquer math. He did graduate from High School, but because of failure to thrive and many other health problems that he out grew, at the age of 22 he is only 5’2″ tall and weighs 94 lbs. Thanks to a group called OMNI, he was given job interview training, resume writing help, and they went with him on job interviews and gauranteed they would stay with him and train him as long as he needed to be trained for a job if he was hired. He was hired by Sam’s club and has been with them for almost a year. He still lives with his mother, but recently I went and spent a week with him and we drove every day, because he has had a drivers permit for three years, but has never gotten his license. After practicing with him everyday he passed his drivers test and he is now buying a truck from his grandpa and drives hisself to work everyday. He is now working on skills such as remembering to bath and brush his teeth and clean up after himself without being told, so he can have a place of his own. So there is always hope that these children can live like others do.
      My cousin has always been classified as MR, and never finished school, nor did she ever learn to read very well, but she took care of a house full of elderly parents and grandparents. She did all the cooking and cleaning and bathing and when they died she was able to live in an apartment on their Social Security as her daddy’s dependant, and she then just took care of herself. She has a sister that keeps an eye on her financial issues just to make sure she is living within her means, but so far she has done a great job of taking care of herself.
      So I just want everyone to never give up hope and to always expect the best, because you neverknow what each person is capable of accomplishing with help from a family that believes in them and that has tons of patience.

  219. karlaporter January 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Fantastic post with excellent perspective. For your readers who may be interested, they can join the campaign to end the ‘R’ word

  220. Ewa January 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    I live this life first hand with my handsome son, that has a heart of GOLD …Thank you for putting this out there and educating people …

  221. JGD January 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Thanks for your post. It, your photos, and your comments on your daughter were wonderful. In terms of using the r-word, as well as other words that other posters have mentioned, such as “gay” and “queer”, it’s absolutely relevant that these words have core meanings and definitions, but that through usage in our society, they have gained additional connotations, some that can be hurtful. So we learn to use them appropriately. Some people scream “PC!” or “It’s a verb, not a noun” as a way to maybe feel superior? I don’t know. I wonder what they would do if their child used the n-word. Or, like my son, got punished by his 2nd-grade teacher when he was explaining to a classmate the original meaning of “ass” (donkey, of course). The teacher freaked out and he came home very confused. He said, “But I was right! That’s what it means!” It was an opportunity to have exactly this conversation — that words are powerful and carry lots of meanings. He was right, that’s true, but it was a word that can mean other things, and we have to use it carefully and thoughtfully. Of course, later, my husband and I rolled our eyes regarding his teacher, who let an awesome “teachable moment” fly right by her, and chuckled at our son’s indignance. In any case, language is powerful, and we need to use it responsibly.

  222. Pam A January 10, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Thanks for sharing this story. I can relate directly to this as I had a 47 year old brother who was “mentally challenged” in many ways, but also smart as a whip in many others. He could not read or write, but was smarter than most to fix mechanical items such as lawn mowers that most tossed and bought a new one. The “R” word was most offensive to him all of his life as well (as it should have been). Many people are very insensitive when they don’t understand how individuals feel when they are on the other side of the situation.

  223. Diane Jacks Endsley January 10, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    Great article. I try to explain to kids that ‘retarded’ is not an insult and should not be used as such.

  224. Guilty January 10, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    I am also guilty of this, even though I know better. I have an uncle who is mentally disabled – and yet I still find myself saying this from time to time. It is insensitive. It is wrong. Thank you for this reminder!

  225. Natalie January 10, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I just want to say: Thank you. Thank you for saying what I could not find the words to say. Thank you for having the courage to share this with others. I am a mom of a 2 year old daughter with Down Syndrome and I am still learning about this new world I have entered. Thank you for helping me to say to friends and family and even strangers what I could not find the words to say.

    • Barbara January 13, 2012 at 4:38 am #

      Peace be with you, Natalie…..the new world you have entered will become easier to live in as time goes by. Don’t be afraid….live in the moment. Try to enjoy each day with your sweet daughter….tell her about the things going on around her, read to her, hold her close to you, smile at her, talk to her often, enjoy being with her. She will bring you much joy in the years ahead……don’t spoil today by being afraid of tomorrow. The very best thing about her is that because of her YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE SOMEONE in your life who loves you unconditionally. I {cannot finish this – for some reason I am unable to continue typing – there is a misfuntion that will not allow further typing ! Sorry


      someone would have said these things to my daughter and I 21 years ago when my first grandchild Benjamin was born. We wasted so much time worrying about what the future might hold that we missed out on so much of the happiness we could have been experiencing if we could have just “lived in the moment”.

    • Barbara January 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

      I am wondering if you saw my last reply to you – hope you did !

      • Natalie March 31, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

        Thank you Barbara for those encouraging words. We have and are enjoying every minute we have with her. She has brought a joy into our lives and home we never imagined we could feel.

  226. Lynne January 10, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Interesting to see how many supportive responses use other language that people with intellectual disabilities often find offensive. Like “the disabled” instead of “people with disabilities”. Yes, it can feel a little clunky at first, but it matters. Anyone not familiar with People First Language should check out Kathy Snow on the subject:

    For myself, I loved th post, except for the part about people labeled with the “R-Word” don’t understand its negative connotations. My son has very severe intellectual disabilities and yet I think his body language tells me he absolutely does understand. And certainly many of the self-advocates I know understand extremely well. (And also sometimes live on their own, etc.,etc. It’s a wide spectrum and a lot depends on opportunities and expectations, too.)

    As parents we are faced with the challenge of being “realistic” sometimes, but also dreaming big dreams. On that subject, check out Norman Kunc’s “When being realistic isn’t realistic”:

    • phoebz4 January 10, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      I know I have found the people first language to be a bit clunky at first, but I am getting the hang of it myself! And if you read the companion piece linked at the bottom of the post, it explains how when I wrote this, I was writing it from our own perspective, but yes, there are many other people with disabilities who do know when they’re being insulted. And at all times, the families also feel the pain of the insult. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Aaron January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

        This is such a great post on so many levels. I really appreciate it as an advisor for People First, which has asked for 40 years that people not use this word as it actively disempowers them in their advocacy movement to become full citizens, as a parent who has had to console kids who absolutely understood the word when it was directed against them, or even said in their presence, and as a friend to people who, indeed, are “not stupid,” and as an academic aware that the word has a history of usage that comes out of a set of arguable assumptions and prejudices. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Cindy Riemersma January 10, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      Oh my goodness – I LOVE this – I too live with a beautiful daughter who has taught me more over the years than any book or educator could. Ou family has been blessed and we have a saying…..”everyone needs a jyl is there life” – she can teach all of us a lesson…….

  227. Nicole January 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    This is a really beautiful post 🙂 It pretty much sums up our situation as well, as my 9 year old daughter sounds alot like Maura. I understand completely what you’ve said and thanks, it was a nice was to start the day.

    I hope you daughter continues to surprise you, as I hope mine does, as well!


  228. Reen Rose January 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing! I have great kids but they do make the comments you mentioned. I will ask them to read your article to help them understand why it’s hurtful. Peace be with you and your family in the coming year.

  229. Diane Jacks Endsley January 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I am always trying to explain to kids that ‘retarded’ should not be used as an insult.

    • patty treiber January 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      thank you; my daughter called out a fellow student yesterday for using the word. she apologized to her- bravo to both! btw my special needs daughter is aware of her disability and asked her brother if he would trade and take it on for awhile. he said he wished he could. she is a great daughter and sister and friend and we love her and each other as is

  230. kerstin January 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    When people use the word “retarded”, I give them another word… “Ridiculous” is an easy one to substitute.

  231. Tony January 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Maura sounds very much like my 6 year old baby girl. She lights up any room. She is a true sweetheart and she is retarded. Thanks for writing this.

  232. Gladys January 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I love it ! Thank you for finding the right words ! you are amazing

  233. Anne Harper Simmance January 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    HI there. I shared your blog on my fb page and my aunt left the following message:
    ‘So well said! Having spent my professional life teaching children with learning difficulties your comments are so correct. I hope that you and your lovely daughter continue to be so positive and maybe she will attain far more independence than you think possible at the moment.’

  234. Diane Valentine January 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    My sincere and humble apologies to you, your daughter, and all others whom I have offended when I use the word “retarded”. As you said in your article, it’s a common word in our vocabulary, and I personally never gave it a second thought. I have been convicted of my insensitivity by your lovely daughter’s photo, and will never use “Retarded” when describing something stupid I have done, written, etc. Thank you for making me aware of the repercussions of that one word.

  235. Garen January 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Autistic spectrum disorders run in my family. I’m the oldest of three kids, and the highest functioning in spite of having Asperger’s syndrome and an emotional age of about 17 (I’m 23). My youngest brother (aged 19) has moderate to severe autism, and has an emotional age of about 3 or 4. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I don’t think there’s anything about him that makes him more special or wonderful than anyone else, apart from being my kid brother. He has his off-days just like anyone else, and the amount of joy we get from making it through family dinner without a tantrum is constantly being balanced by the amount of stress we have making sure that he’s safe and looked after.

    He is not retarded. He is not stupid. He has very limited verbal ability, and he is 5’11 with the demeanor of a mischievous three year old. He’s a tremendous burden, and while we’re not sorry that we have him, it is very important that we recognize that he is a burden.

    Maura looks like a lovely child, and I’m sure that you’re very glad to have her, but don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that she isn’t a burden. And if you have other kids, make sure that they understand that as well, and make sure you point out the things that they can do that she can’t. While the word “retarded” might be a point of irritation for you, the idealization surrounding special needs people is a major point of irritation for me. They’re people. Not saints, not angels, blessings, not curses. People. And people are a mixed bag.

    • phoebz4 January 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      Don’t worry – my husband and I do make an effort to make sure every child gets as equal of treatment as possible. Sometimes, Maura gets in the way of something fun, so I will offer to opt out and sit with her while my husband takes the other three up to the top of whatever tall rocky thing they’re climbing. Maura has also spent a lot of time sitting on soccer field sidelines just like any other non-soccer playing sibling, and been dragged along to her siblings band concerts and dance recitals – which she actually enjoys – she’s a great audience member! I also make sure that Maura respects their possessions, stays out of their rooms, etc.

      Yes, there have been times that her issues have had to take priority – that can’t be helped. But we make sure every child in this house knows that they are special to us, for their own reasons. I have favorite things about each one. I can brag on them all equally – the only reason why Maura gets more attention on this blog sometimes is because I am respectful of my older three kids privacy, and what they may or may not want shared with the world.

      But thank you for your concern – it can be easy to give all the attention to the child who seems to need it – when really, all kids need their parents attention, no matter what their degree of ability is.

      • Colleen January 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

        being a mom of five with an autistic son a very wise person once told me… the child that needs you the most at that moment is on the front buner and ones on back buner can sit and simmer for a minute… Yes, Joe is usually the one on the front burner but the others get my attention too… Burden is a very strong word… because with him comes Joy, and unconditional love! He has taught me tolerance, and has shown me a different world than I couldn’t have ever imagined… I used to pray for a miracle to fix him and then I realized he was the miracle… Yes, my hopes and dreams have changed for him and yes at times I feel sorry for myself but most of the time I sit back and am amazed at what he has over come… I know my other children wish he was normal and at times they say it to him but I also watch them help him over come obsticles and protect him from the outside world… My six year old already told me she gets Joe when I’m gone so a burden he is not because he is loved!

    • Sally January 11, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      “the idealization surrounding special needs people is a major point of irritation for me. They’re people. Not saints, not angels, blessings, not curses. People. And people are a mixed bag.”

      I love this statement. You said very simply what I have felt for years. I am the mother of triplets: two without disabilities and one with cerebral palsy and developmental delays. The kids are 21 years old now and I can tell you that my son with CP is not a blessing in the manner that people imply nor is he a curse. He is my son and has been a pain in the neck and an absolute delight. I get so frustrated when a disabled child is called an angel. Just because my son has special needs he is certainly not an angel. He is a person and is a mixed bag like I am and my other children are. I love my three children and have poured myself into them all to meet them where they are. I am confident that I can speak for my two that grew up with their disabled brother in saying that as young adults they are happy to be free from the constraints that come with living with a severely disabled sibling. I am happy about this, too, since now I am not his sole caregiver any longer and I am free to live my life without always being limited to where a wheelchair will go and what he is willing to do.

      Since we are talking semantics is he a burden? Websters defines burden as, “a: something that is carried : load b: duty, responsibility.” In that context I say yes he is. Burden does sound severe, however, he is a burden that we are forever grateful for and blessed to have, I have made sure that his brother and sister know that all their lives they will have the responsibility to oversee his life, to ensure his well-being, when I no longer can.

      This is a good topic begun on the implications of the word retarded. I appreciate the discussion regarding the use of words derived from the plight of the disabled. I think of this when I hear retarded used in frustration to describe a person’s foibles. My son has spastic cerebral palsy and he truly is a “spaz” which is another one of the terms used derogatorily. Aw, I will leave that one alone! That’s another post!

    • Laureen January 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      I agree with you on this one, Garen!

      Some people who have disabilities — autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or any other “delay” — are easier to live with, or just be around, than other people with disabilities… just like people who are “typically-developing” vary in this way.

      When I hear the word “retarded” tossed around indiscriminately, my stomach ties itself in knots. I don’t appreciate ignorant apathy or negative stereotypes of people who have disabilities.

      However, neither do I appreciate idealistic, inaccurate stereotypes about them.

      The truth is, some of us are easier to be around than others. Much of the time, it has nothing to do with a diagnosis!

      But, whether or not we are easy to be around, we deserve kindness and respect and love from our fellow human beings, not because of our cognitive abilities, athletic prowess, or our social sweetness.

      We deserve to be valued, and to know we are loved, because we are precious in the sight of God.

  236. Marc January 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    My cousin is autistic. She is also blind. She is close to me in age (40s), still lives with her mother and always will until my aunt can no longer care for her. I have never once considered her “retarded”, though I’m sure others have.

    • Garen January 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

      I’d also like to point out that autism and retardation are two completely different things. It’s like having a set number of apples and a set number of oranges, with apples being IQ points and oranges being autistic traits. Everybody has their own number of apples, but for the most part you only have oranges if you’re on the autistic spectrum, and the number of oranges is completely independent of the number of apples you might have.

  237. April Box January 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    I’m so glad my friend sent this to me. My precious brother, Rex, has Down Syndrome. back in the 70s, at the time he was born, the word “retarded” was used to describe him. I’ve always hated that word. I understand ignorance, but hearing people use that word makes me cringe. It’s not okay to use racial, religious or sexual preference slurs, but it’s okay to use the word, “retarded”? That makes no sense. I do everything I can to let people know that using that word not only hurts me, but it makes the user sound ignorant. My brother is the greatest person I’ve ever known. He’s not an idiot. He isn’t stupid. He isn’t lazy. He is retarded, but only in the sense of a definition. Most of the decisions made that are referred to as “retarded” are NEVER decisions my brother would make. Thank you, again, for writing this. It truly touched my heart!

    • Barbara January 13, 2012 at 3:05 am #

      What a beautiful letter you have written ! Your brother is so Blessed to have you for a sister; I can only imagine how much he must love you – and how much joy you have brought to his life ! May God richly bless you …….

  238. Maura U. January 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Beautifully said, Phoebe. God bless you and your family, especially dear Maura!

  239. Amanda Dryer January 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Hi, I am currently a Junior at Brandeis University and I plan on becoming a Special Education teacher. Your blog about “being retarded” is truly inspirational. It reminded me why I started this journey to begin with…

    “You are retarded because you hang out with retarded kids.” Even though my ignorant classmate uttered those words years ago, his words still send chills through my bones. At the end of the day, what infuriated me the most was not his derogatory language towards me, but rather how he found joy in mocking the boys I have grown to adore. Most of my peers would not even in consider befriending Pablo, Ivan, Chris, and Danny because they have Autism.

    My journey began during my sophomore year of high school, when my softball coach told me she worked with children with Autism. As the softball season progressed, she explained to me in greater detail what challenges her students with Autism confronted. As my junior year commenced, I became more and more excited to meet Ivan, Danny, Chris, and Pablo. Little did I know that my excitement would soon turn into apprehension. Not only was I surprised by the arrangement of the classroom, but the people inside. I was scared of the loud noises Chris would make, Danny’s sudden jumps, Pablo’s unexpected hums, and Ivan’s spontaneous jerks.

    After my initial visit, my coach allowed me to work with the boys. I taught Pablo how to interact socially with one of his peers. I helped Danny complete a challenging puzzle and I read a Dr. Seuss book with Chris. I even brought a shoe to the classroom to help Ivan learn how to tie his shoes. After many weeks of greeting Pablo inside room 552, he had a breakthrough. Pablo, who cannot speak and usually does not interact with many of his peers, stopped me in the hallway and waved. His simple wave gave me the courage to stand up to my ignorant classmate. I did not utter back hateful words in revenge because I did not want to show my classmate his words bothered me. For some time I pondered over what to do; nevertheless, at the end of the day I knew my actions would speak louder than his words. Being an active student in my high school gave me the opportunity to promote change. Youth Educators (an organization of future teachers) and I decided to start a campaign called, “Autism Awareness: Buddy Bands.” We purchased bracelets and attached an educational poem. At the end of the day, we not only raised over five hundred dollars for Autism Speaks, but also spread Autism Awareness.

    Before I knew it, it was June and I was walking across the stage at the Junior Award Ceremony. Then Dr. Harrigan (Assistant Superintendent of Research, Assessment, and Special Education) began to describe a junior who started a campaign to spread Autism Awareness. He described this young woman as, “a junior who exhibits compassion for students with developmental disabilities.” That was all he was supposed to say according to the booklet, but he couldn’t refrain from saying, “Amanda we are grateful for your generosity, most importantly, your dedication to the Half Hollow Hills Community.” Soon after, I thanked him for the Support our Autism Rainbow Scholarship.

    As I look back, his words do not bring tears my eyes. In fact, what brings tears to my eyes and even a smile to my face is that Ivan, Danny, Chris and Pablo today still do not know how they changed my life and they probably will never know. The lack of these boys knowing how they changed my life in itself makes them special because they will never ask for a gift in return; however I can thank them for their “generosity” by spreading awareness. I will not rant about their incurable disease that is often referred to as enigma, but instead I will relay the message that we all have the power to change the world by educating one person at time.

  240. Stephanie January 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Thank you for this. I work at a facility for individuals with disabilities and have done sensitivity training in the schools. This is one of the first things we teach! Your daughter is beautiful!

    • mark January 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

      Thanks to my wonderful understanding girl friend that has pointed this out to me, i to have used this term. And now totally understand the right and wrong of this word. I will so pass this on to people so they to can understand. you have a beautiful daughter and i thank you for the education lesson.

      MARK.W.RUGGLES edmonton,alberta

  241. AngelOfMusic January 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Actually, retarded comes from the Latin retardare, which simply means slow. Not academically, or emotionally necessarily. So when you state that something is retarded you are stating that it is slow. That may mean physically, academically, intellectually, or emotionally. When you retard something you are slowing it own (such retarding the spread of a fire).

  242. Kerri McAlister January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Beautifully written and so true. My sister has a learning disability and epilepsy and she understands more about human nature than most. She loves unconditionally and doesnt judge. She is tolerant of almost everyone and never speaks ill of anyone. She also doesn’t understand a lot of what goes on in the world that is bad and has only a limited understanding of death. Her world is pure and innocent and sweet just like her Kerri

  243. Lorra January 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    I am a special education teacher for student with developmental delays in early elementary school. I love your stance on your daughters abilities. I do mean her abilities not her disabilities. I love the way you look at all of the wonderful things that your daughter can do and your acceptance of what she struggles with. Not a lot of parents are like you. I have had parents ask me after informing them of testing results and various academic difficulties, “When she goes to college…” I just want to cry, because they still don’t comprehend the magnitude of their child’s challanges. Thank you!

  244. Donna Powers January 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Please consider the terms you use. Rise above the backward mentality and use words that are positive without a negative connotation.

  245. Mary Hicks January 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    I am a retired teacher, and taught first grade for 30 years. I must say that children don’t really understand what the word “retarded” means. They hear it from others much older than they are, and use what they hear as their own. That’s why we must all be more careful what is said in a young child’s earshot, or at least take the time to explain a word so that that child can “own” the word, and use it properly.

    When teaching school, and encountering a parent who didn’t know how to discuss a child with “special issues”, I found that many parents would use the word retarded to describe their child, because they wouldn’t know what else they could say. Sometimes I think they said that word because they feared that the teacher (myself) actually believed it to be so, in their child’s case.

    My way of addressing parents with children who are learning disabled, or Dyslexic, (an old word indeed!), speech impaired, or any other issue with school and learning, I would use my own definition. I prefer to say that a child is “differently abled”, rather than retarded, or disabled. If a person NEEDS a label, that fits better, in my mind, than the word “retarded”, which has a negative connotation. How sad we need to label people adversely to explain their issues away.

    Your daughter is beautiful, and looks like such a pleasure to be around. I am glad you are so wise about her, and her needs. My granddaughter, age 7, is Dyslexic. It’s painful to hear others use words like “retarded” in her presence, and not treat her as if she exists, or can hear what is being said. We are patiently learning about reading, and we learn something new every day if we can. She is a joy, and the delight of my life. I am so glad to know that you view your “differently abled” child with loving eyes, as I view my grandchild.

    Warmest Regards, Mary

  246. Nancy January 11, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    My two daughters are diagnosed as mentally retarded, or the current euphemism “intellectually disabled.” They are both adults. Both live on their own, one with assistance a few days a week, one on her own w/out staffing. What’s the word mean at our house? NOTHING. Why? My oldest daughter who has the more severe disabilities, is able, just not as able. She does a lot of things any other 30 something year old women would. She works. She votes. She volunteers. She goes to church. She has friends. She has hobbies. She has a pet. She loves helping people and is one of the first to volunteer if someone needs help. Can she do everything? Nope, but then again, neither can I, geometry and calculus will always elude me. Actually we should probably add physics to that list. We all have different abilities and disabilities. Something my daughters grew up seeing as I struggled with classes that were next to impossible for ME. With a high IQ. Just not perfect at everything. And please do NOT ask me to do counted cross stitch! My youngest teaches preschool. Yes, even ‘mentally retarded’ or ‘intellectually disabiled’ or whatever you want to label it, she finished community college. We hadn’t considered it for her until she was working as an aid at a preschool and they required her to take some hours of a class at the local community college, but would pay for the whole class if she wanted to take it. Oddly enough her first class was “The Exceptional Child.” She came home from class all energized and thrilled. Why? She knew all the material they were teaching…she’d lived it herself or had friends who had. One of her real abilities at school is noting the kids who are having problems who need an eval. Her disability became her ABILITY. So call my children anything you want. I’m past getting upset about it. They never did. So I took my cue from them. And I think they took theirs from me. I didn’t consider them ‘retarded’ just ‘differently able.’ Amazingly enough it wasn’t unusual for their friends (who were diagnosed with intellectual disabilities) to be calling each other ‘retard’ in the same way another child might. It was just a put down. Not a nice one. Not one I’d encourage. But not one I get upset about anymore.

  247. Brigit grudka January 11, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    I feel that most people are not sensitive enough to see the truth behind a disabled human being. A retarded child is a gift from god to help us grow into more loving caring and accepting human beings. In traditional cultures such as the red Indian tribal culture when a disabled baby was born to a family that meant that the family was special and holy and so they were much respected!
    These days I see that most people have forgotten to use their hearts and creative spiritual side so they do not comprihend what you are saying about your daughter
    You can feel the love and light she generates. Thanks to families like yours the world becomes a better place. Thank a million for bringing a bundle of true love into this world.

  248. K R Chin January 11, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    As a pre-teen and a teenager I worked with such children on a regular basis, we alternated between pure joy at seeing them learn something, agonized with them when they had problems grasping a concept and pure terror when their innocence would get them into trouble. We very quickly learned not to use the word “retarded” in place of “stupid.”
    I eventually had to quit volunteering at the place where I worked with them, it was just too much for me, emotionally. I admire you your courage and patience, and may I say that this article was well written.
    You have a beautiful child.

    • Becky Walkington January 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

      You know what? Let’s just not use the term at all. There’s too much emotional baggage attached. We’ve left behind a number of other pejorative terms – or tried to, at least, so we know it can be done.

      • phoebz4 January 12, 2012 at 3:59 am #

        well, until MR ceases to be a legitimate medical diagnosis (which it still is – even if doctors are beginning to not use it for children nowadays, there are many adult’s with this diagnosis), then we can’t just stop using the term. We can at least not use the term in a negative way though!

  249. ime January 11, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Thank you for writing a very meaningful article. Thank you.

  250. Nancy Spivey January 11, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    What a lovely piece!

  251. hollie January 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    This is beautiful! thank you for sharing it! I dont know you and you dont know me, but that is the beauty of the internet 🙂 looks like you have touched many peoples hearts in writing this. My sister has some disabilities & our dearest friends have a son with special needs and he does special olympics…they have a saying, “Say no to the R!” Love it. Thanks again!

  252. Sasha January 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    I love this post. I myself is guilty of using the word “retarded” not meaning to be malicious but still doing exactly as you say, using it to mean stupid or dumb. Over the years I’ve made a conscious effort to not use the word and to point it out to people who do. Either way I hate that word. I prefer mentally challenged or special in their way. Retarded sounds very brash and wrong. Also I find that most children/adults who have this challenge are capable of doing things that I can’t or looking at things in a way I would never be able to. For that, they are God’s special angels.

  253. Misty January 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    This is a very beautiful post. I feel like I need to state something in defense of people who use the words “retarded” and “idiot” but are not referring to people with special needs. Words change meaning in civilizations, and I have to admit that growing up, I was never taught that “retarded” meant someone with disabilities. Actually, I grew up believing that people with different abilities were not very different from myself–and that all people, if given love and care, can excel to their highest potential, whatever that may be. The word “retarded” was introduced to my sometime in fifth or sixth grade as a way to describe ones’ self or others doing something stupid or being behind. Most of the time I heard it used in a self-derogatory fashion, not directed at others.

    Could it be that most people don’t even associate the word “retarded” with people with different abilities? Perhaps “retarded” is now no more than a slang word used by those who have limited vocabularies, who have no desire to offend people who are different than they are….again, I have most often heard this word in a self-deprecatory way.

    It would be wonderful if people would use the English language appropriately–it would be great if people’s vocabulary weren’t limited to what they hear on television, but such is not the case. My children don’t use swear words, and we don’t use slang terms. Because they have never been taught that people with special needs could be referred to as “retarded” that thought would never enter their mind if they heard the term. Perhaps a better battle would be to teach our children that negative word meanings often stem from people’s ignorance. No one would like to be called an “idiot,” considering it’s dictionary meaning, but seriously, how many people read the dictionary or study etymology (our family does, but we are unusual)? In common vernacular, “idiot” is often used in a joking, half-serious way, much like “retarded” has come to be used. I have yet to read a post with special needs parents up in flames because people purchase books like “Idiot’s Guide to Special Needs Children.” Because we don’t refer to our special needs children as “idiots” even though those in earlier centuries did.

    Of course, if someone is using ANY word to be cruel or verbally abusive, it is wrong. Most word meanings can be altered by the way in which they are delivered. But, if someone is using the word “retarded” in an inoffensive way, perhaps it is best to choose not be offended, and realize there are several commonly used meanings for the word that are not meant to offend you or your special needs friend or child.

    In addition to that, since the medical professionals do not use the word “retarded” in their diagnoses, and since most educators, state governments, and parents do not use the word to describe their children, our continued offense is not really understandable. Are we really trying to embrace our special needs children with the label “retarded”? I don’t think so. As I see it, we got off that path long ago and replaced that word with other words that are better descriptors, like “intellectually challenged,” “special needs,” “cognitively disabled,” “autistic,” etcetera. We ourselves don’t even use the word except to write posts like this, and to make other people who innocently use the word in its common slang meaning feel bad for offending us, so I think we should just move on and let the now archaic medical meaning of the word fall out of use, as “imbecile” and “idiot” have. When someone says, “gosh, I’m so retarded,” in front of my special needs daughter, she does not take offense. She understands its most common meaning in use today, and would never even remotely think it applied to a person with different abilities. Why don’t we do the same?

    • Gordon J. Torry January 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      Love this article straight from the heart. For the last two years our surfing association has been doing a kids with special needs surf day. The only way I can describe it is one word SMILES. I have come to look at these special children with a whole different attitude, these kids when you gain their trust have the best of times, smiles from ear to ear, laughing and totally enjoying themselves. In my family we a child with down syndrome and Lisa has never been exclude from any family gathering, she is such a beautiful young lady. The word retarted doesn’t exist in our childrens vocab. when describing special people.
      Have a Blessed Day
      Jonathan Torry Trinidad

    • susie January 12, 2012 at 8:21 am #

      Well stated. I do try to be sensitive to it, but the word just won’t go away, especially with the teen generation. And in this world of politically correct, I don’t understand how it came to be so over-used in the first place. But it has. I’m glad this mom recognizes that it is not used to hurt her beautiful daughter. For many it is used without thought, kind of like the words we say like ‘Oh Shoot!’ or ‘Darn it!’ or like Sponge Bob would say.. “Mother of Pearl!” … you get the idea. Society does not at all use it to describe ‘cognitively impaired,’ individuals. And maybe I got off track, but even that last term seems negative. It’s such a touchy subject. But I try to be sensitive, and it is not a word we use. I also correct others’ for using it, and try to educate them. I cringe when I see facebook posts with the word. Because I would never want to hurt anyone, if it truly hurts them. You have to put the shoe on the other foot. Then it all comes to light!

      • phoebz4 January 12, 2012 at 10:18 am #

        Interesting you feel that even “cognitively impaired” seems negative, as that’s what professionals are switching to in a way to get away from the negative connotations “mental retardation” has.

    • Coleen January 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Medical professionals, educators and parents do use the acronym MR to describe a student with special needs. MR stands for Mental Retardation and it is a medical diagnosis used when someone’s IQ is lower than 70. It is not old fashion.

  254. Jeanne January 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Good for you, blogging about this topic. My sister had a diagnosis of mental retardation, she was the joy of our home and the greatest teacher I’ve ever had. I’ve been a pediatric physical therapist for decades, and I’ve seen the word morph from diagnosis to slur, and it’s upsetting, inaccurate, and a slap in the face to the dignity of those who have disabilities. No wonder physicians keep resorting to new euphemisms – cognitively impaired, intellectually challenged, etc. trying to keep one step ahead of those who would diminish people by using their diagnosis as a slur for sloppiness or quirky behavior.
    Thank you for your frank treatment of this sensitive subject.

    • Ally January 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      I have a big issue with this topic beause I say retarded all the time meaning stupid. I disagree with the definition of retarded to mean cognitively disabled because I think its a mean word and I don’t refer to intellectually/ cognitively disabled people as retarded….I say intellectually or cognitively impaired or intellectual disability or the correct term.

      I feel that “retarded” is a very harsh term to call someone with cognitive disabilities despite its definition and prefer to reserve the term for myself when I do spill coffee or trip over nothing.

      • phoebz4 January 12, 2012 at 4:14 am #

        Well, that’s your right – freedom of speech and all 🙂

        But as for definitions of words –

        Retarded – : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress (Merriam-Webster)

        Cognitively disabled – well, you can’t find a clear, consistent definition for it because it’s not actually a medical diagnosis yet. Most professionals I’ve dealt with (from doctors to special educators) have used the term “Cognitively Impaired”.

        I did find this for you – Defining cognitive disability is not easy, and definitions of cognitive disability are usually broad. Persons with cognitive disabilities may have difficulty with various types of mental tasks.

        Intellectual disabilities, also known as developmental delay or mental retardation, are a group of disorders defined by diminished cognitive and adaptive development.

        So note that they’re basically defining “cognitively disabled” as “mental retardation” – take that as you like.

      • cw January 12, 2012 at 10:30 am #

        It’s extremely ignorant to say that when *you* use a word, you don’t mean it in “that” way, when you have just been told that (regardless of your intentions when using it) it is very offensive to some people. It’s a word that’s historically linked with discrimination against people with disabilities. The issue is that you’re using a word which has been used to put down people with developmental disabilities to describe your own stupidity, and by proxy calling people with disabilities stupid. Or you can just keep telling yourself it’s ok when you say it, whatever works for you.

      • lbc January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

        The English word “Retarded” comes from the Latin root “Retardare- to impede, slow down, or obstruct”. It’s completely pointless that you “disagree” with the definition of the word. The fact of the matter is, Mentally Retarded is a medical diagnosis void of derogatory meaning. The english language is fluid, in that the meaning of words can changed based on the way they’re used. At some point in time, “retarded” became a derogatory term used to describe someone as “stupid”. This is a mis-use of the word and extremely hurtful.

      • Amy January 13, 2012 at 9:08 am #

        Ally, I understand you must not have grown up in an environment where “retard” was a word that caused your sister to cry and ask why people are so mean to her.
        I understand that sometimes people use words flippantly to describe themselves, others, or situations that deviate from the “norm.”
        I also understand that people whose diagnostic sheet in their medical chart at the local clinic or hospital includes a diagnosis that falls under the Metal Retardation catagory are in many ways less retarded than many others. Their emotions are true, the devotion is unconditional, their love is real.
        The reference to someone or something being retarded is just as hurtful as racial or religious slurs. Your acknowledgement of retarded being harsh term for people with cognitive disabilities fall short if you still use the word as a symonym for stupid. It only reinforces the negativity.

    • diane scrimalli January 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      Beautifully stated, Jeanne!

  255. Brooke January 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Thank you for this post. My sister is severely special needs and my friends don’t seem to understand why I get upset when they say the word retarded. For me it is extremely hurtful and disrespectful. I appreciate your willingness to post this as it has probably helped more people than you know. Good to know that I’m not the only one it hurts.

  256. Doug McIntire January 11, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    I’m a kind person. I don’t have children, and yes I have used the word retarded. Usually in the way most people do. After today I will never refer to anything that is stupid as retarded. Thank you for reminding me of the true meaning:)

  257. Deena January 12, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    I am a stranger. I know nothing about you – you know nothing about me. I read this post because of a Facebook post. I feel the need to tell you that I have never considered what you are saying here before and now I will never be able to get these words out of my head. This was very powerful and beautiful and true. Thank you for your bold and brave words. You and your daughter have just changed this one woman, and my son will now hear these words from me, and hopefully it will go on and on… Thank you.

    • Abigail Sandler January 12, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      My beloved sister, Aimee, was profoundly developmental and physically disabled. For the 53 years that Aimee graced this earth, I heard the R-word being used everywhere, and it was a constant reminder of the pain Aimee endured, on all levels. It’s time that the masses became sensitive to the needs of others, and start dignifying their language and actions towards those truly unable to help themselves. Aimee might have been disabled in many ways, but like the song said, “Once In Love With Aimee, Always In Love With Aimee!”
      Aimee’s legacy was enormous, and if you go to:
      you’ll learn how one person, no matter how disabled, can make a huge difference, and ultimately impact the lives of others throughout the Great State of Pennsylvania.

  258. Lynette January 12, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I have a wonderful second cousin who has MS, but “they called him retarded. Both of my best friend”s sons have autism. “They” also call them retarded. My husband’s grandson has CP. And, yes, you guessed it. “They” apparently do not know the meaning of the word. It boils my blood to hear the misuse of the word retarded. And I have always referred to such people as ignorant, because in all reality they are not really stupid. Insensitive? Yes. Hateful? Perhaps. Ignorant? Definitely! God bless you and Maura! Thank you for the blog!

  259. Cindy Urso January 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Can I just tell you how thrilled I am that I came across this????? My GORGEOUS daughter is 21 years old now and has down syndrome and is one of the brightest people I know! She is my pride and joy daily and when I hear people using the “r” word it infuriates me to no end! If they could see the world through our children’s eyes for one day, I truly think we would live in a better place. Thank you for writing this! It made my day!

  260. Emily @ Stylenerd January 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. I admit, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate it when people use the word “retarded” in place of stupid. I don’t hesitate to correct people on it. I don’t have anyone with specials needs in my family, but to me, it’s very inconsiderate and thoughtless to use the word. I only wish more thought that way.

  261. Jane January 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    God bless you and your family, and the strength that it took for you to speak your mind.

  262. Joan Mansfield January 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    We grew up knowing the medical term and most medical terms are the favorite for jokes so long as they aren’t about fatal diagnoses. It was good when Down’s Syndrome was brought forth as a correct medical term for those that have that condition; it is proper to say and be accurate for their social well-being and that of others to understand there is a condition to consider. Once someone has been enlightened they are expected to act appropriately; just as you when you know someone is blind you don’t expect them to read the signs. When my son was diagnosed as Juvenile Diabetic we heard every variation of what made this person or their loved ones angry when Type 1 was being described: : ” I am not diabetic, I have diabetes/”, “I don’t have diabetes or I would give it back. I have a disease.”, I don’t have a disease. I have a diabetic condition.”, “I don’t have a condition Silly. I am a Diabetic. I live with a physical organ failure.” When life gives us unique things to deal with we should start realizing not everyone knows how to deal with us and our touchy spot. As for Downs, not every Mentally Retarded person has that particular condition; My uncle and I are the same age but he had the misfortune of having genetic mistakes happen. And he has been such a blessing to our families. Unbelievably helpful through the years. He is well over 65 and as a person with Down’s Syndrome that is an unusual age to achieve. And he has lived being well loved and showing love to others; but, we often informed others of his condition so they would know how to act to grant him respect and enjoy meeting him, OR GOING ON ELSEWHERE AND LEAVING MY SPECIAL UNCLE ALONE. When we hadn’t yet learned the term Down’s we used the term retarded but that didn’t stop us from asking about some actions of the average person, “Are you retarded?” Just as you ask, “Are you Blind?”, or “Why are you acting stupid?”, “Are you Deaf?”.
    Yep, that is the way we humans act and Yep, the best thing for us is to be taught proper words in the English language – remember that when you listen to what they are cutting out of the education curriculum. And I did say English. If you want to learn another language go to another class and learn it properly.
    Corner Garden Sue is correct.

    • Corner Garden Sue January 13, 2012 at 7:54 am #

      Oh, now I know what you, Joan were saying you agreed with. From the things you were writing, I couldn’t tell, because I hadn’t written about anything like you were saying.

  263. Tanya January 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    She’s beautiful! The overwhelming love, eternal innocence and the belief that all people are truly good is a gift that God has given these “disabled” people. The greatest gift that you can give your child is to believe in her. Good luck and enjoy your little angel!

  264. Alisa11 January 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    I have a daughter that is 20 years old with developmental disabilities, visually impaired, hearing impaired and aspergars, yet she has far surpassed my original wishes for her. My only comment for you is to not underestimate what your daughter will achieve, it’s amazing how the human brain learns to compensate over time. With constant work and guidance, she may achieve more than you ever thought.

  265. Juliag00lia January 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    What an inspiring post! I wok in a program called Best Buddies where people with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities, (the new phrase replacing the “r word”) are able to form one-on-one friendships with their peers who don’t have those same disabilities. It is a wonderful program and I am so grateful to have met all of the wonderful people in the program! If I were to say one thing about kids with IDD’s it would be that they are anything but stupid. They are smart, caring, fun, creative, and friendly people, and they deserve the same love that everyone else does. 🙂
    I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season! 🙂

  266. Adrienne January 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    Hi. My younger sister is “retarded” and I remember going home from a friend’s house one day after they had said a show was retarded and asking my parents what it meant. They thought I was referring to her but it’s such a standard remark that it was used in that context to describe a tv show. My sister has the most amazing memory of anyone I have ever met. She remembers people that I barely knew and asks about them 10 years later. She is always wondering how people are doing and is concerned about them. Even though she finds it hard to express I know she has a better memory than anyone I know… and she remembers when people call her names and tell her she is retarded, and it hurts her. She is 24 now and lives in a group home, on her own, and LOVES it. She is more happy now than I could have ever imagined, and my family hesitated to put her in an environment with people with similar issues because of fear of “abandoning” her. We see her every weekend and she always asks to go back to Beta, her house. I appreciate you writing this article. Most people don’t think twice about using derogatory terms like retarded or gay and don’t think about the people who are truly affected by the use of those terms.

  267. Diana January 14, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    So true! This is a word my family and I have eradicated from our vocabulary. Thank you for your article. It is poignant.

  268. machelle Dressler January 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    I have a problem with the word retarded also. People around me say it and I just want to say could u please not say that. It doesn’t sound very nice. People need to think before they open there mouths.

  269. MomtoMany5 January 15, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    My son became very ill as a 3 month old infant. He had meningitis & encephalitis, and came home with less ability than he had as a newborn (no suck reflex, paralyzed on his right side, could no longer open or close his left eye, etc). We were cautioned that he might never walk, talk, sit up, make any developmental milestones. We were heartbroken, but he was still alive!
    Through many years of every therapy imaginable, he began Kindergarten in a private school. I was worried, as he hadn’t learned to talk, until age 4, with hours of speech therapy, and an incredibly patient therapist.
    By about the middle of Kindergarten, I received a note from my son’s teacher, saying “In my 30 year career teaching 5 year olds, I’ve never had a boy as clear, and talkative as your son. He has a bright future ahead”.
    He caught on to lessons slower than his peers, but once he learned a new skill, he worked hard to perfect it!!

    Fast Forward 20+ years, and our son was married this past April. He works as a physician assistant, with a Master’s Degree. All of his supervisors comment on “amazing rapport with patients”, “accurate diagnostic decisions”, and “extraordinary respect and care for all patients”.
    I know not all children develop in this manner, but I have to give God the credit for my son’s amazing progress, and healing from such a serious brain injury.

    My prayers are for all children to have access to needed therapies (we fought insurance for every step of the process), and that each child be able to reach their full potential as they grow into adulthood.
    God bless each family living through this, for patience, insight, phenomenal teachers, and understanding friends and family. It’s a tough road, but the signs need to be deciphered to make the journey successful.

  270. Barbara January 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    I grew up in the 60s & 70s with a brother who had Down’s Syndrome. I remember hearing the word retarded used by other kids in a hateful manner. It always angered me. As an adult I worked in Special Ed as a teacher, family educator & consultant. I always saw the brightest cleverest kids who were loving unconditionally. Most of the kids I worked with will never be able to live on their own either but they were not stupid! They figured out ways to “outsmart” us “normal” people all the time!. Retarded, yes; stupid, no way! Let’s continue to educate others to teach them what “retarded” really is.

  271. Cindy Urso January 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Both of my kids have disabilities, my daughter has down syndrome and my son has asperger syndrome. I was also a teacher’s aide for years. I count myself as one of the luckiest people around for the knowledge that I have been taught by my kids and all the others that I have been around have taught me. It’s funny, when they were born, I thought I was going to be the one doing all the teaching (and believe me, I did a ton of it) but it is really something how kids with disabilities can teach us what life is really about! They can show us what is really important! We can all stop and learn from them! My kids are my pride and joy and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be their mom! Life is so good! I’m thankful each and every day!

  272. retired teacher and nurse January 15, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    I have a developmentally disabled brother in law. If you did not understand that, I would say his brain stopped developing when he was 6 months old.

  273. Cara January 16, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    WOW, amazing . . .my best friend from high school has a mentally challenged sister. This was the first time I ever had a close relationship with someone who is mentally retarded. Let me tell you she is one of the greatest women I have ever known! She has the greatest sense of humor and she LOVES making a room laugh. She is caring, honest, thoughtful and full of life. . .She is now in her 30s and she unconditionally loves every person who shows her a shred of kindness.
    There are many things she is not . . she is not cruel, selfish, judgmental, disrespectful, and she is certainly not stupid. I had the opportunity to attend the Special Olympics and it was the most eye opening experience of my life. . . .Previously I was judgmental, disrespectful and even fearful of what I didn’t know. What I know now is a mentally challenged person can contribute to this world just as much, if not more than a person of normal intelligence.
    Where as I would walk past a stranger who was tearfully standing on the sidewalk, she walks up and asks “what’s wrong?”, and when she asks, she genuinely cares. She is not concerned with being attractive or rich, she doesn’t waste her time trying to impress people. She is a unique and special individual and has more personality and love in her than a stadium full of people of who possess “normal” intelligence. I have been blessed to know her and she is ten times the woman I will ever be.
    Our society misuses many words, retarded, gay, etc . . .because we lack the intelligence to understand or care about the effect these words can have. I feel that if everyone spent just one day with a mentally challenged person, one day really learning about each other and interacting as human beings, they would surely think twice about misusing this word. We are all “different”, and it is less about the extent of these differences than it is about the opportunity to learn from one another.

    So thank you for this article, I can agree that this habit is one that CANNOT be acceptable. I would love to see high schools require one day of volunteer work a year that would involve interaction with the Special Olympics, or a local organization working with mentally challenged people. It is an opportunity that would affect these kids for the rest of their lives.

  274. Stacey Dishman January 16, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    My daughter has Fragile X syndrome. She was recently diagnosed at the age of 14. Until then she was simply labeled as Autistic. Her fragile X Syndrome does cause Autistic like qualities.
    I understand your view on the word retarded. I have the same feeling about the word Gay as well.

  275. John January 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    We have a mentally disabled daughter and my wife gets very upset when she hears someone use the R word. We were at the grocery store recently and 2 girls and a boy were at a register talking. The boy used the word in reference to something and my wife couldn’t take it anymore. But she didn’t yell or get visibly upset. She approached the 3 kids and said, “That’s my daughter over there, do you think she is ugly? ” Even though she is brain damaged Jessica is a beautiful girl, you would never know anything is wrong with her just by looking at her. The boy replied “No”. My wife then said, “Well the R word is an ugly word. My daughter is mentally handicapped and I’d prefer that the R word not be used around her. It’s a very hurtful word and you should think about how it might feel to other people that are around you when you use it. Please don’t use that word anymore.” The boy hung his head and apologized. I know it’s hard to stop using the R word and it may never happen. But it all starts at home, and in the playgrounds and in the shools. If you were never taught or heard of the word Jackanape you would never say it? So why are we teaching the R word? Just remove the word. It’s a ridiculously simple idea, but at the same time impossible to accomplish. I don’t know what the answer is but try to stop using it if you can.

    • Corner Garden Sue January 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      Hi John, I like the way your wife handled that. Good for her!

  276. Sara Flint January 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    It really bugs me when people use the word “retarded” to describe something as stupid, because they are implying that mentally retarded people are stupid. We have signs in our school that say “The word retard is something hurtful. Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly how it feels to millions of people with disabilities.”

    • Sara Flint January 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

      BTW she is a beautiful little girl and I wish the best for her.

  277. Karen January 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    I just want to simply say thank you.

  278. cassie January 17, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    With the things they teach us these days, “slow to learn” will surely leave her smarter than the majority of the rest of us. She won’t be taught to judge others, she’ll love simply, she won’t get blind sighted to what’s really important in life. Thank you for this post. I used to use the word freely, but quickly changed that after I really gave it some thought. I hope you and your beautiful daughter see a big change in people’s use of the word and know that so many people are on your side when times get tough. God bless you!

  279. tracy patton January 17, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    My name is Tracy and I work with the developmentally and intellectually disabled. I work hard everyday to give people like your daughter the chance to live independent lives. I have seen discrimination far too often and am sickened by the ignorance of people. However, please know, there IS hope!!!! There are individuals like myself and my coworkers that believe in people like your daughter and know that although she may need some assistance, she can lead a happy, healthy, and independent life. I know its frustrating when people are clouded by their own beliefs, but please keep the faith. There are many networks and support systems for your family and your daughter. These people care and are working herd to change the trend of ignorance. Please keep the faith!!!! Best of luck to you and your family and your beautiful little girl!

  280. pat January 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    think it’s time for the dictionary definition of retard to change there is not one human that does not have a short coming in one area or another!

  281. Anna Walley January 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Your daughter is beautiful this is very thought provoking, Thanks!

  282. Kristen ryan January 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing about this issue so beautifully! My daughter has a congenital form of muscular dystrophy with brain involvement and this us something that happens quite often around me too.

  283. amandajph January 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    This is a beautiful post that a friend shared with me today. I am always shocked when otherwise socially conscious people, who would never use a racial or homophobic slur, throw this word around like it’s ok. I’m glad I stumbled across your blog, it’s fantastic! 🙂

  284. Brittney M Forgrave January 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    You have opened my eyes to a whole new world. Thank you. I am going to share you with everyone I know so that we all will make a change in our choice of words.

  285. Aimee January 19, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    This whole conversation disturbs me. Lets just start by saying, your daughter is beautiful. What a precious gift you have been given. Enjoy every moment and miracle that will come – there will be many. You will celebrate milestones that other parents will take for granted, for us it was that first empty bottle. My daughter spent 11 days in the hospital simply learning how to eat.

    My daughter has Down syndrome. I imagine our battles are much the same, inclusion, acceptance, advocacy. This word – isn’t one of them. This word has absolutely no power in my house. Everything in this house has the potential to be “retarded”. We are all on a level playing field here.

    My daughter has developmental delays. If she was born in the 19th century she would have been diagnosed as an Idiot, a moron or an imbecile. These are all medical terms that have evolved. Retard is no different. When I see this word on a medical document I simply think that the paper work is just out of date, roll my eyes and know they mean DD. They’ve even gone as far as to take the MR off of the DD building.

    For me, this word has evolved past medical diagnosis and is merely a slang term in the same category as idiot, moron and imbecile. My child is not Down syndrome, she is not retarded, she is not a moron and I’m not offended by slang use of them. No one stopped saying the word ugly when my mother gave birth, I don’t imagine I’ll stop saying the word retard just because I did.

    Admittedly, I pay more attention when people say the word then I used to. I hear it for different reasons, when I hear that word, without pause, I know you are comfortable enough around my family to be who you really are. It means that you are capable of seeing PAST her disability and accept her for who she is, not her diagnosis.

    I’m not trying to be disrespectful in any way. I attempted to choose my words carefully, and it took me about two hours to write this post as I contemplated my own words to not offend you. Which is exactly why I don’t give that word ANY power. I don’t want someone to afraid to forge a genuine relationship with my child out of fear that she may be offended by a simple slip of the tongue.

  286. Brenda Devine January 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    My daughter is the GREATEST! She is patient, and kind. She does not envy. She does not boast. She is not proud. She does not dishonor others, and is not self-seeking. She is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. She does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth. She is protective of others, always trusts, always hopes, and always PERSEVERES. The world calls her “retarded” and “disabled.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 & 13 shows me that I am the one “disabled”, yet blessed and humbled.

  287. Eliza Jane January 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I feel the exact same way about the word “gay”, when people use it like “that’s so gay” or “that was such a gay thing to do” to describe an ugly shirt, or misplacing keys, etc.

    • phoebz4 January 20, 2012 at 4:02 am #

      That’s another phrase I haven’t used since I was…oh, 12 or 13. The “so gay” line just seems so juvenile coming out of my mouth (says the woman who still uses “dude” and “awesome” – lol!)

  288. Kim January 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    I just want to simply say thank you. This was a wonderful read for me this morning. I have a sister who is cognitively disabled.

  289. keith Z January 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I could not think of better words to say than what you did in this wonderful explanation. I’m proud to be a father of a son with Downs Syndrome who is 14 years old,I hear this word come as close as family members and just don’t get it. The simplicity for which our children live there lives and the lack of attention they request in doing so should be studied in universities to see why they have such a great take on life,we cant ignore these wonderful people in our society and they are wonderful contributors. As we all know people use these terms to show their own ignorance by trying to degrade others they deem weaker than themselves only to show that they are the weaker and shallower of our race.My son also excels in his own personal choices and can blow me away with the things he can and does accomplish.He may never read a book the way most do,he may not win a foot race,he may never be the most popular in his class and do you know what ? I don’t think it will ever matter to him that he is not first at anything,he dosnt have to be the one in the spotlight but does love it when he is.He lives the life of simple choices and dosnt choose to make life difficult for me or himself. My son is not perfect and my son like myself has flaws that make us human,(not retarded) Thanks so much for your daughter and your simple look at the misuse of the R word

  290. cheryl January 22, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    My son Cameron is also a special needs child and I wanted to thank you for this site. My son has a stepmother who is insensitive enough to say he’s mentally retarded right in front of him to other people. I can’t tell you how upsetting that is to me. 😦

  291. Anlenie DelRosario January 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Thank you for this. Is true many people do not mean it in a malacious way or are ignorant about it, but if we don’t educate them, who will. I’m using your blog to educate my friends and family and hopefully their friends and family and their friends and family and hopefully the ignorant excuse, won’t be an excuse anymore.

  292. Cheryl DeMent January 23, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Phoebe, my daughter, Jamie DeMent, forwarded your blog to me about your amazing and beautiful daughter. Thank you for saying so eloquently what so many need to hear. I am in my 36tlh year of teaching exceptional students. Outside of raising Jamie it has been my life’s focus. Jamie’s brother, Jason who died at 3all months, would have been among those wonderful and exceptional children who would have had great difficulties and would never have lived alone. I applaude you for embracing Maura’s challenges and allowing her to be all that she can be with your love and support!

  293. christine January 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    My goodness! How can I thank you for putting into words so beautifully what I have wanted to articulate about the use of the word “retarded” in our society. I too have a daughter with a cognitive disability and she can be described just like you describe your daughter. I really really love what you wrote! Thank you!!!

  294. Jeannie Aka Hollys mom January 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Thank you, very well said

  295. Jennifer January 29, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Is she in the Special Olympics because it can change her life forever. As an athlete it did for me.

    • phoebz4 January 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      She’s finally old enough, and we’re looking into programs here (she knows soccer, but they also have a rythmic gymnastics group that she’d love, I’m sure!) My husband has done the Polar Bear Plunge to help raise funds for the Special Olympics 🙂

  296. Algauld January 31, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Thanks for this beautiful and amazing post. I cited it on my blog as it said everything I wanted to say but much more eloquently. I hope that is okay but if not, I will remove it. Truly, thank you!

  297. Teresita February 2, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Thank you for enlightening me. I know we have never met annd you have never heard me callously use the word retarted but I want to apologize. I shall never do it again.

  298. sam February 2, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    using the word “retarded” came up in a discussion my colleagues and I had recently. We are nursing students. How do you feel about nurses, physicians, and other medical professionals describing someone as mentally “retarded?”

    • phoebz4 February 3, 2012 at 6:37 am #

      when it’s used as a medical diagnosis, it’s appropriate. To me, terms like “Cognitively disabled” and “mental retardation” are pretty much the same thing. It’s never something you want to hear about your child, but it can be the appropriate diagnosis. If that makes sense?

  299. Karen Cooper-Johnston February 3, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    beautiful post..

  300. Kristie February 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Thank you for a wonderful post. My two and a half year old daughter has Down Syndrome, and I hate the fact that the word “retarded” has been hi-jacked by those that would use it to mean “stupid.” The idea of being slowed down or impeded in reaching a goal fits her situation more perfectly than any other term the experts have come up with. I try to use the word correctly in her hearing as much as possible (e.g. The traveler’s progress was retarded by the bad roads.) so that will be her primary understanding of the word as she grows up. When she hears people refer to her as retarded, I want her to think of it as meaning slowed down, not as stupid. Because she isn’t stupid, just like your beautiful little girl. Thanks again!

  301. Anonymous February 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    That is a great way to put it. My mom is right to say it is banned from my house.

    P.S. I bet Maula would be AWESOME

  302. Cheryl February 22, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    I totally understand your feelings. I have a beautiful daughter named Wendy who is 29 yrs old. She has Down Syndrome. She is also the most fantastic young lady you could ever meet. I thank God every day for her. She has taught me more than I have learned in school or from anyone else. I totally love her.

  303. April February 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    I have a daughter as well with intellectual disabilities and may I say what you wrote was amazing!

  304. Dot McFarlane February 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Let me tell you a little bit about myself, and my living arrangements which some may call unique. I shared a two-bedroom apartment with my two best friends, Michelle and Lisa, for over 15 years. Michelle had physical disabilities, the most obvious being spina bifida and she was a full-time wheeler. Lisa has a mild intellectual disability. None of us were strangers to the use of the “R” word, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, we lost Michelle to septicemia last May 23rd.

    Lisa’s older brother James also has an intellectual disability, but his is more pronounced. He still lived at home until just over a week ago. A few weeks ago James called to tell us that his workers were looking for an apartment for him. His mother died last October and his father’s not in the best of health. We thought about it and decided to invite him to live with us. Years ago I promised his mother that James would always have a home with us, if necessary. I’m glad God has allowed us the opportunity to fulfill that promise.

    James was walking our dog Bentley tonight, and he was having some trouble getting Bentley to come with him so raised his voice to him a bit. A guy cursed and called him the “R” word. NOBODY says that to James in my presence, without getting a real tongue-lashing!!!! This probably didn’t have any effect on the guy, but I have absolutely NO regrets about saying it!!!! I’m so blessed to have both James and Lisa in my life. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

  305. megardoodle February 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    I try my hardest not to get offended by that word. And I see people sheepishly look at my daughter when they use it. I love what you wrote. Thanks for sharing.

  306. Anne March 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    So well said Thank You!

  307. Kim March 6, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    I love what you have written. I’ve shared the link more then once on my FB page.There are a lot of times when I hear the r-word and can’t say anything but there are a lot of times when I can say something. Today, as a matter of fact, someone used the word on FB. It was someone I didn’t know making a comment to a friend. Well, I said something to her, linked……Your never going to believe this…..she has a downs syndrome daughter, and after back and forth between her and I (on my friends status update) she thought it was perfectly fine to use this word. And I don’t mean talking in medical terms about a disabled person. My friend also decided to chime in and proceeded to give me Webster’s meaning of the word and I found out he too didn’t have a huge problem with it and started talking about politically correct and blah blah crap — I may or may not be deleting him as a friend!! My son is 6. He has Mowat-Wilson Syndrome. He is one of the happiest kids on this earth and I can not imagine our life without him. I won’t break out in song or anything because we all know how great our kids are! It breaks my heart to think of the tormenting he will receive in the future by these shallow, disrespectful people. I am still however smh at the Downs mom.

    • phoebz4 March 6, 2012 at 4:46 am #

      I think you should totally break out into song about your son! LOL! Sometimes, we have to realize that some people will just not get it. It’s not about being told what to do, it’s showing some respect for another person’s feelings. As they say, it’s just a word, and really, not a very necessary one for day to day conversing. So why not drop it from your vocabulary, especially if it hurts the feelings of a friend? sigh.

  308. Tara March 7, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    beautiful. Simply beautiful.

  309. Donna Renee Powell March 7, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    This is one of the best BLOG post I have ever read which explains the feelings a parent of a special needs child might feel when hearing the word “retarded”. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a 20 year old daughter who has Down Syndrome. She is the joy of my life and has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Find her blog at (Angels Among Us) Again, thanks for sharing! LOVE IT!

  310. blaquemamba March 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Please let these people KNOW! I watched a stand-up show in which the comedienne joked that she didn’t mean “gay like bad, but gay like retarded”. This was a not so subtle commentary about willful ignorance and complacency in common language and society. Perhaps the speaker might not mean to be hurtful, but it’s a ridiculous notion that one should take words that have a longstanding meaning, and turn it into something shameful or to be mocked. This is the same kind of thinking that makes actual derogatory “acceptable” within certain circles. Even if I didn’t have a cousin with Down Syndrome, I’d still feel the same.

  311. Kyle March 11, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    That was very powerful!!! It’s strange how words which can be used so carelessly by one can be so meaningful to another. After being in the ICU due to one of River’s many seizures I literally can’t say “I see you.” It sends a shiver down my spine when I hear others say those three little words. Now in a game with the boys I have to say “I can see you”. There is a constant mindfulness, and a thankfulness for what we do have.

  312. Alicia Cumming March 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I LOVE your house rules-so funny! Agree very much with what you’re saying–so many of us slip out the word “retarded” when calling something or ourselves stupid. Like the blog post I came across by a Native American girl talking about how hurtful “cultural approximation” in “hipster” fashion was, this was really needed by so many people!

  313. Melissa March 27, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    I remember when I was younger…in grade school and one of my friends sat outside my house and called me a “Palsy” (at that time that was actually funny to call someone!) Well I made him feel very dumb when I told him “You do know my brother has Cerebral Palsy…right? Well after that of course he felt bad and I hope to this day he does not use that “saying” or use the word retarded! People who use these terms should be called out on it…most of the time they do not mean what they are saying but when they say it to someone who has it directly in their life…IT MATTERS. If you have the chance to ever really know a mentally challenged person then you will know…they love with all their heart…in everything they do…even with all the challeges put in front of them everyday! Love you Nicky! xoxo

  314. Sharon April 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I have a 17-month-old granddaughter who has Down syndrome. It really hurts my daughter and me to hear people’s widespread, casual use of the word ‘retard (-ed)’. I tell everyone I know about the website and their campaign: “Spread the Word to End the Word”. I know it’s ingrained in our society, but more people should realize that words can hurt and they should think before they speak! Thanks for your take on all this! Enjoy your beautiful Maura! ~ Sharon

  315. Sharon April 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Oops! Make that for the ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign website! Thanks again! Sharon

  316. Rebecca Bigsby April 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Thank you for this. I was trying to explain to my friend who the R word is not acceptable and she didn’t understand. I began searching the web for an explanation she could understand. i think this one is perfect. God bless.

  317. huzaifa April 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    I am 15 with Aspergers and i agree100%

  318. LInda April 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    From one parent to you…BRAVO. It is all the same thoughts my husband and I feel but you wrote it so perfectly. Our daughter with special needs is also so beautiful and innocent. Life is not always easy but she is such a blessing! Love to your daughter!

  319. Kelly May 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I share this with my friends, and everyone who has read it has changed their opinion on the word!

  320. Lynne May 10, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    I work at a major groc store here in town and we have some employees that I work with that are like this The best way that I have to explain them and thier situatation is that they are “challeneged” they are not retarded (I hate that word) and by no means are they stupid… once you tell someone that this person is “challenged” they seem to be a little more understanding… it is the best way that I have found to not offend anyone and make others understand

  321. lesli devito May 13, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    I grew up with two retarded brothers. Both, as a result of accidents at birth. I still don;t know how my MOm did it, except she just DID. No one was sued, it was just the way it was.
    Sometimes people, when they got to know me would say, “you don’t seem like you have retarded brothers”. I always wondered how I would have looked if I DID SEEM like I had two retarded brothers. Sad? Weird? Ugly? happy? I had no idea what they meant! I don’t think they did either.
    The word “retarded” causes a bigger stir in my house than the “F” word. I hate the word. For all the reasons you described. I have overheard my children say to a friend, upon hearing them say “retarded”, “You better not say that word around my Mom, she gets REAL mad at that word.” I now, with this thoughtfully written post, have a wonderfully articulated way to communicate to them, teenagers now, why the word is simply not appropriate.
    My daughter’s name is Phoebe by the way!!!
    Thank you. Love your blog!!!

  322. Mike May 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    I feel you. I am a 15 year old and my 11 year old lil bro has a very severe form of dyslexia and is one of the smartest kids I have ever met. He is in the special ed classes at school. He gets made fun of every once and a while and would come up to me and ask “what is wrong with me” and “why do kids always try to avoid me when I talk with them”. It gets me pretty pissed when kids use the word retarded when they don’t know what it is like to have an actual retarded brother in your family.

    • phoebz4 May 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      Dyslexia is tough, and very misunderstood! It’s got nothing to do with IQ. At least your brother has you to stand up for him!

  323. Suzanne Grodner May 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Dear Sweet Mama,
    Your daughter Maura is BEAUTIFUL. And you are just awesome. How lucky that she has you for a Mother, and how lucky you are to have her for a Daughter. I imagine there will be daily challenges for both of you, and struggles through life…but, man… what joys….and smiles…and gratitude for the simple things in life.
    And I promise you that I will never use that word again…

  324. ally May 31, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    i can’t thank you enough for posting this. my brother (15) has autism. he’s the most wonderful person in the world. I can’t help but cringe every time i hear or see the r word being used. it’s ruined a lot of days. thanks again for posting! your daughter is very lucky to have you (and you’re lucky to have her!)

  325. Charles Letherwood June 4, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Very moving post, Phoebe, and thanks for writing it. I’ve worked for 16 years with an art, music, and theater program for “retarded” people called Phame Academy. I have seen what amazing people they are if one takes the time to look beyond the disability. Yes, they may not be able to live on their own, but they CAN live in a way that puts us “fully abled” people to shame. Check out; they’re doing their yearly musical production (this year is Willy Wonka). All the best to Maura!

  326. Audrey July 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    She is beautiful in every sense of that word

  327. Melanie Holdner August 30, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    This is truly an inspirational post! I’ve spent two of the best summers of my life working with all age groups of people with physical & mental disabilities. It’s those that are retarded that have made the biggest impact upon me. People continuously tell me that they don’t know how I can do it, but I always tell them that to me NOT wanting to work at camp is something I don’t understand. Camp is a place where the campers (No matter their disability) are simply another person with needs; it doesn’t matter if they can’t speak, need help getting ready in the morning, need their counsellors to do something silly to get a smile; they are equal to every single staff member. To come back to reality at the end of the summer & see people use the word ‘retarded’ for stupidity is something that I’ll never get used to. Some of the most amazing people that I know & will ever know are retarded, but that sure doesn’t make them any less than you or I. I wish more people could understand this.

    • Corner Garden Sue August 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      Melanie, I’m not wanting to start another debate or hurt your feelings, but I’ve been a special education para for 10 years, and I’ve never used the “R” word in reference to anyone, and don’t recall anyone I’ve worked with using the word, either.

  328. PattiSinMI August 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    I also never use that word under any circumstances. In a medical setting, if one must be labeled, I would prefer the term “Cognitive Disabilty”.

  329. LeahSugar October 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    This article really pisses me off!!
    I will say that I use the word “retarded” ALL the time!! It to me, does NOT mean any of the things listed above as this parent has so kindly posted for us! Your daughter has a mental disability, yes this might mean that she is retarded. Why is this such a horrible word?? Sometimes I feel slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development – at that very point I, myself am retarded!
    I have at times left my keys locked in to my truck – OMG, that was REALLY stupid of me to do.
    It is what it is, why do we have to dramatize the hell out of everything!?!?

    Your daughter is BEAUTIFUL and in no means stupid! Go on and enjoy your time with her, that’s what really matters isn’t it?!

    Definition of RETARDED

    : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress

    Definition of STUPID

    a : slow of mind : obtuse
    b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
    c : lacking intelligence or reason

    • phoebz4 October 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      I’m so glad my feelings on this subject piss you off, and that you left a comment to tell me so, and how none of what I wrote is how YOU see it. It’s good to know there are people out there willing to help me know how I should feel about something, especially subjects that are near and dear to my heart. I’m also thrilled you think you can be “retarded” at times. Even though locking your keys in the car, while yes, a dumb move, doesn’t really equate to a life-long cognitive disability that there is no recovering from…but HEY! This is about how YOU feel, and how YOU see things! So thanks for sharing! 🙂

      PS – just curious if you know anything about sign language? Because my daughter screamed in my ear today, and I fear I may have some hearing loss now. Hopefully it’s a temporary thing, like your moments of retardation.

    • Elizabeth October 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Wow, LeahSugar, it was unintelligent of you to leave such a comment on my friend’s blog about the word “retarded.” It is stupid to argue with a mother on her own blog…especially when she’s writing about challenges that her daughter has and that people dismiss with a cheap, thoughtless remark. You were somewhat obtuse to have done so. See, all of the words that can be used when one makes good use of her vocabulary. I never once called you “retarded.”

      • starbursteyes March 6, 2013 at 11:01 am #

        I honestly, and truly wanted to clap in response to your fantastic vocabulary choices 😀 I have a special needs son and I loathe the word retarded.

      • starbursteyes March 6, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        I truly wanted to clap upon reading your fantastic vocabulary choices! 😀 I have a special needs son, and I too loathe the word “retard”.

  330. cantfighttheworld March 6, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I love when people capaign for one word, yet still use other words that over the ages have meant the same thing. Stupid, dumb, dunce, idiot, defect, retard. All of these words at one point describe people with mental disabilities. So why condone those words but not this one? Someone before you crusaded to stop calling those people those things, so you’re being hypocritical. If you want someone to stop saying a word, adjust your own vocabulary as well.

    • phoebz4 March 6, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Well, the words stupid, dumb, dunce, idiot are not used as a medical diagnosis still. I haven’t heard someone called a “defect” in I can’t even say when, if ever. The one big startling difference between those words and “retarded” is that “mental retardation” is still used as a medical term or diagnosis (even though that’s being switched to “intellectual disability”.) I can’t recall the last time someone was medically diagnosed as “stupid”. But thanks for sharing your point of view!

  331. Tricia @ little cottage on the pond March 6, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Well said! Our daughter Sara has Down Syndrome. I am a teacher and have heard other teachers, administrators, parents and their children use this derogatory word. I correct them. Every. Single. Time. Our third graders took the pledge- even when it meant correcting their own parents. Awareness eliminates ignorance.

    • Tricia @ little cottage on the pond March 6, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      I hope you do not mind, but I have linked up your post to my blog. You really said it better than I ever could 🙂

      • phoebz4 March 6, 2013 at 11:53 am #

        it’s made to share, thanks for sharing it!

  332. Karen Mary Butterfly March 6, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    I love this. Thank you. For what it’s worth, I ALWAYS correct my students if I hear them use this word in a derogatory manor. This was a wonderful post and now I have some great tools to use when correcting them.

  333. Grace Wathen March 10, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    When I was a child many years ago the word meant slow to learn or develop, until I read this it had never even crossed my mind to think that it meant “Stupid” I have a grandson who has Down’s Syndrome and he is late and slow learning but I have never heard anyone indicate in any way that they thought he was stupid. The word was used years ago to cover many causes of slow learning including Down’s Syndrome but advances in Medicine have meant that most of these conditions now have a name so the word does not need to be used other than if Medics use it amongst themselves when discussing how these children are progressing. I do not know if they use it but am saying it is the only way I can accept it in this day and age with the exception of elderly people who find it hard to change or cannot change the words they use.

  334. Anne June 22, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    Beautiful and eloquent. Have you ever checked out They run an amazing bike riding program helping people with developmental and cognitive disabilities learn to ride independently. Amazing organization – I have no affiliation with them at all other than they taught me son to finally ride a 2 wheeler. Workshops all over the country!

  335. Gary Wilson July 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Bless you and bless Maura. Our “retarded” daughter leaned to read upside down by reading my morning newspaper at the same time as me across our kitchen counter. She can still read faster upside down than otherwise! Our “retarded” daughter has also learned to paint and refinish furniture quite well. One evening I was observing her work in our garage on a ongoing home renovation project. I commented, “Wow Pookie,(nickname), you are really good at that! How did you get so good at that??” Her reply…..”from watching you”. I was floored. Someone is always watching you wether you know it or not. We have also come to the conclusion that as long as some ignorant soul is calling one of us some kind of name, at least they are giving someone else a break.

  336. Kay July 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    So let me get this straight: YOU think your daughter is retarded? I know adults with kids who have down syndrome who don’t consider their children to be “retarded” and don’t get offended by that word. Let me let you in on a little secret: people don’t get offended by things unless they feel there is truth in the statement, i.e. they’re insecure. Your daughter is beautiful and unique but she is far from being “retarded.” You need to let it go. People are people. You can’t change them. You can only change yourself.

    • phoebz4 July 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Thank you for your lecture 🙂 I fear you missed a couple points…

      A) my daughter’s medical diagnosis is ” mentally retarded” or the more PC “cognitively disabled”.

      B) My daughter doesn’t have Down Syndrome or any other known syndrome that we can figure out. If you read the “all about Maura” section, you can learn more about our lack of diagnosis.

      I don’t go around in my daily life calling her retarded, which is also apparent of you read more of my blog. I was making a point about how words can hurt. I don’t see is atlas not being able to let go of stuff, but as being more considerate, respectful, etc.

      Luckily we’re all entitled to our own opinions, isn’t that great 🙂

  337. MJoy4 August 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this! I am reading it to my introduction to exceptionalities classes when we discuss “people first language”. Your parental perspective is perfect to help my students understand the people and feelings behind such words. Thank you!!!

  338. Lisa November 5, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Hate to be the one to point it out, but “stupid” was once the psychological term for “retarded” which was abandoned because “retarded” was seen as more PC. Then it was special, and soon it will be cognitively disabled/differently abled/whatever the flavour of the week term is.

    But I guess eventually all of these words will cycle through the “Too offensive to say” category. I wonder how long it will be before people are writing articles saying, “Why not just say retarded? I know what retarded means! And it doesn’t mean my (insert newly accepted term here) child!”

    • phoebz4 November 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

      The one difference is that in today’s world no one is diagnosed as “stupid” as their medical condition. The term “mentally retarded” is still used, though is being used less because of its negative connotations. It is still in many patient files, and the only diagnosis some people with disabilities have.

      • Lisa November 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

        I think my point is being missed here. Essentially, what I’m saying is that I don’t see the point of crusading for such a fleeting thing. As she grows up, your daughter is probably not even going to self identify as “retarded” unless she is encouraged to by older people in her life. Why fight battles you don’t have to just because an outdated diagnosis is sitting in a file somewhere? We give words like this power, in my opinion, by latching on to them and trying to make them taboo.

      • phoebz4 November 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

        Yet right now, in real time, though my daughter does not understand the word “retarded” or its negative connotations, her siblings, parents, family and loved ones DO understand how it is used in an insulting manner. That’s what I’m fighting.

        The great thing is, if I choose to crusade for this, I can. And it doesn’t affect you unless you decide to let it.

      • Lisa November 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

        So you’re choosing to be upset on your daughter’s behalf about a word that she could quite possibly go her whole life without knowing ever applied to her? You’re right, it doesn’t affect me, except for the fact that you and people who share your view will make others feel like they have infringed on your daughter’s rights because of a word they use. I would even go one step further and say that the stigma surrounding the word because of these kinds of articles actually perpetuates the connection between the word and the people, prolonging the perceived discrimination. I’m in my mid 20s, and until these kinds of “movements” started, I never associated that word with intellectually disabled people. I’m not sure what good it does to reinforce that, especially given that the word is already on its way out. Anyway, I’m doing what you are: offering an alternative perspective.

      • phoebz4 November 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

        You know, I am not a lesbian, but I object to people using the term “gay” and “fag” as derogatory terms. You don’t have to be “something” to object to derogatory terms.

        And to say the word “retard” is on its way out is ridiculous, in light of the fact that it’s shortened term, “tard” is used so much in our present culture to describe things that are stupid.

      • phoebz4 November 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

        Here, maybe a visual will help you –

      • Lisa November 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

        I never said you had to be. I meant that it seemed a bit illogical to be offended on your daughter’s behalf when she might never know that the word “retard” ever pertained to her diagnosis, because the term is on its way out. No, not as a popular insult or thoughtless remark, but as a psychological diagnosis. If that were not the case, and she was going to be referred to as “retarded” for the rest of her life, I would better understand your frustration.

        Like I said further on in my comment, I certainly never made the connection between “retarded” and “intellectually disabled” when I was growing up. I doubt this is something that can be said for gays and lesbians today when it comes to derogatory use of those words. Mostly because those are still very much used as descriptors of those peoples’ sexual orientation.

      • phoebz4 November 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

        You seem the type who has to have the last word in an argument. I will let you have that word.

      • Lisa November 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

        Anyone reading this will be able to see that I was only trying to explain my point to avoid being wrongly accused. It seems to be unavoidable, though. I am sorry you took it that way. Good luck!

  339. wheresbollo November 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    This is an amazingly well written post on a word I myself am guilty of using. Thank you for the perspective and reality check.

    • Modern Sports Mom Patti November 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

      Lisa, you are sadly mistaken and misguided. There is simply no acceptable use of this word under any circumstance…even in the medical field. To use it or create an argument for using it is extremely ignorant. You will not win this one. Sorry.

      • DeeEmOh November 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

        The notion that there are certain words which are unacceptable no matter the circumstance is extremely ignorant. Get real.

  340. Melissa November 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Thankyou for this blog post, that a friend sent me the link to. I had made comments on my FB page recently about the use of the word “retard” and “spaz” as we have a son with Down syndrome and ASD, and I find the inappropriate use of the word hurtful and lack respect. Thankyou for sheading light on a parents perspective. Your daughter is just gorgeous and like us, I can see that she is teaching you much about life.
    cheers, Melissa

  341. aktifistri December 1, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    I burst into tears when reading this blog, touched by the unconditional love a mother has to her daughter and will fight for anything that hurts the love. Love and big hug to you and your cute beautiful Maura! xoxo

  342. Brenda March 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    I have an honest question. Frankly, what I’m about to share embarrasses me. I was having a conversation with a friend recently about my child (who has ADHD & some other possible issues on that spectrum), another friends child who has aspergers and another gentleman/close family friend I have known for since childhood who is mentally impaired. During the conversation everything got a little muddy. I was having a difficult time finding the language to differentiate which child we were talking about & the only word I could find to categorize or quickly describe or my friend’s situation was “retarded”. I hated even saying it as it passed my lips… I (feel)felt aweful. It was a private conversation, neither my challenged friend, nor anyone other than the person I was talking to will ever know I defined him that way. I just want to know what words I should have used? I didn’t have enough in my word bank :(. I was trying to communicate “someone who is significantly cognativly impaired with a mixed bag of other complicated mental challenges.” Even that sounds disrespectful to me. He’s so much more than a label. Please, please give me some better descriptive words so that never happens again!!!

    • phoebz4 March 4, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      Cognitively disabled is the term you were searching for. However, try not to feel too bad because many older people with cognitive disabilities were probably diagnosed with “mental retardation” back in the day. Even now it is still used as a medical term.

      It is hard, because we don’t want to describe someone as their limitations. But there are times when they need to be brought up.

  343. Sonia April 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Awesome article.

  344. Pat April 13, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    Reblogged this on POPS and commented:
    Words have meaning.

  345. Jackie January 5, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    This is such an important post. As a child in the 80’s, I too used the word “retarded” improperly. When I was in high school on a summer program, I met a great friend whose younger sister was cognitively disabled. We had the same discussion that you wrote about in your post, and I made a conscious decision to never misuse the word again. It’s hard to train yourself to replace a word in your vocabulary, but it’s so necessary.

    Later, when I was a fifth grade teacher and pregnant, I heard my students using the word maliciously toward each other. We had a big class discussion about what the word means, and how that would play out if the baby growing in my belly was to be born impaired. The class was anxiously awaiting my baby, and it really drove the point home that we are talking about people, very special and beloved people, when we use the word “retarded.” I would bet that they never used the word in a negative fashion again.

  346. Jon Pope January 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Excellent write up, glad a friend shared this with me, wish we could tell the world! Maura is beautiful inside and out!

  347. Cathy Green January 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    My Molly is classified as mentally retarded. 24 and IQ of 55. She has trouble with telling time or counting money BUT taught herself to crochet and knit off YouTube!! She will always live with our family and not on her own. So many things in life a young woman dreams of. College, Marriage and children, my Molly will not experience. She is happy all the same and thank you God for giving us this amazing young woman as my daughter!!

  348. vipministry June 1, 2016 at 11:59 pm #

    Thank you!

  349. Patty January 6, 2017 at 8:47 am #

    Thank you so much for this article. I live this life with my daughter, Hannah also. It hurts so badly and gets me steamed to hear people use this word so loosely. Thank you again

  350. Grandpa September 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    Totally agree with your sentiments. I hope you don’t mind but I have re-blogged this on my blog. The more people who read it, the better.


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