The R Word

27 05 2011

Typically I write about how technology enhances the educational experience of children with special needs, but I have to divert this post to something that has spoken to me to such a degree that I had to share it. A friend of mine and Intuitve Parenting author Deb Snyder shared a blog post from a friend of hers whose own son used the word “retard”. Now, she is the parent of two beautiful daughters with special needs,so this was particularly disturbing to her. In short, her son did not realize the significance of his utterance of the word. (Click here to read the blog post). By her own admission, she speaks as to how she used to utter this word in middle and high school, how she is now ashamed that she did. After reading her post-more than once-it got me thinking.

We teach students with disabilities of all kinds. We, as educators, I think, are sensitive to how we speak about our students. We speak in “people first” language, we use the individual first, then “with”, then the disability. We try to be sensitive to the needs of parents, and of the children we teach. This may be small to some people,but it’s HUGE to others.

Personally, it’s not about being “PC”, or “sensitive”. It’s about evolving. About not using derogatory language. About teaching our children that it’s not okay to use those words in ANY context. My son used the “R” word once. Just once. I’m not proud of it, nor am I happy that he said it, but he has learned that it’s not okay to say the “r” word and other derogatory terms. I too admit I have used this word in middle and high school and it bothers me that I did. Why did I even think it was okay? Because, quite simply, it’s not.

My favorite illustration of this point is the PSA done by EndtheRword

My other favorite site is The Social Challenge Their site contains a live Twitter feed of all of the people in the word that are using the “R” word in their tweets. I was surprised at just how many people use the word and think it’s okay.

I hope that we realize that the power of our words can do just as much good as they can damage. I hope that as educators and as parents we continue to illustrate this point to children. Words are powerful-choose wisely.

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