If we had a dollar for every time we heard a person call someone "retard" or say "that's so retarded"...
Especially now that I have kids, I tend to wince at the word. Or the "r-word" as people who work with intellectually disabled people call it.
The words "retard", "retarded and "retardation" are still used in health care today. I used it myself, some years ago, when documenting the progress of the people I worked with. I was taught to use it and saw it written in doctor and nurse notes. "Mental retardation" was also a term used as an official diagnosis and still is today (however incorrectly), with many health care professionals.
But in the last twenty years or so, the word has been taken into mainstream language, used to insult someone. Instead of meaning that a person has an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, the words "retard" or "retardation" mean dumb, stupid, idiot, moron...etc. Of course, "idiot" was also a word used by health professionals years ago.
The Special Olympics are using President Obama's recent gaffe (comparing his bad bowling game to a "Special Olympics" level - although he obviously didn't mean it in a mean spirited way, and is something I'd probably unthinkingly do too. He has since apologized) to bring to light the incorrect use of the word "retarded" and are campaigning for the word to be banished altogether.
In some ways, it's difficult to know what words to use at all. Some may take offense at the word "disabled", "challenged", "limited" or "impaired". Which ones are correct? And why do the "correct" expressions keep changing?
The Special Olympics use the expression "intellectually disabled" but other words like "challenged" are also appropriate.
What is not appropriate, obviously, is the throwing around of the word retarded. March 31st will spotlight this word - it's a national day of awareness, promoted by the Special Olympics, asking people to not use this word.
There are many of us who know, or have family members, who face intellectual challenges. I'm sure the hurt of hearing someone yell that word as an insult must be huge. It's up to us to disallow our kids from using this word and to encourage them to ask the same of their friends.
I know it seems like political correctness seems to rule our speech. But this is less about being p.c. and more about being mindful of those around us. If people and family members of those with disabilities, as well as the people with the disabilities themselves are saying they really dislike the word - then obviously there's something wrong with it. There are so many words in our dictionaries - surely we can use one less hurtful.
You can learn more at www.r-word.org
Do you, or someone you know, use this word, as an insult to others, even in joking way? Do you think this word needs to be taken out of our collective vocabulary - why or why not?
All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.