Think About Her

Today is the National Day to Spread the Word to End the Word.

Spread the Word to End the Word

It’s been a busy day and I’ve gotten the kids settled into bed after spending the evening with Anna at Special Olympics soccer practice. Having just watched her win a gold medal in basketball two weeks ago, I’m especially pleased that the Special Olympics is taking an active stance in this campaign. I’ve written about the “r” word before and how much it hurts. Even though that post was written nearly three years ago, each time I see a friend use the word, I still wince and have to decide how to take a stand. Why does this word mean so much to me?

Because of this little girl.

Austin lifestyle photographer special needs girl

Because I’m her mom. I am with her every day and every night. She never went to daycare. She doesn’t attend summer camp. She is with me. I paced the floors with her for hours when she cried as an infant. I was there when she was seizing and had to be hospitalized. Twice. I was there to send her to a special needs preschool. I was there for every single test, doctor appointment, specialist, therapy, procedure, I was there. I will always be there. It’s my job to protect her, to advocate for her, and to educate others about her. (If you want to know more about PDD-NOS, check out my YouTube channel.)

Because she is the bravest person I’ve ever known. She’s had to take awful tasting medicine every day, twice a day, for most of her life and she never complains. She works four times as hard to read and she continues to make progress, though it’s slow. All she wants is a friend but all the little girls on our street grew up and won’t play with her anymore.

I have this same photo nearly every year of her on her birthday. It’s not technically good… she was in constant motion because we were singing to her. She was so happy.

Austin lifestyle photographer special needs girl

When someone, anyone, uses the “r” word, it diminishes her hard work. Anna has an intellectual disability. She is in a Functional Life Skills classroom. She has autism and lots of other labels that do not define her spirit. What defines Anna is her sense of humor, her adoring love of her baby dolls, her skill in basketball and soccer, her kindness to other children with special needs, and her love for her family. She wishes for other things that little girls wish for. (She turned 11 last Friday, don’t you love the fun cake my mom made her?)

Austin lifestyle photographer special needs girl

She deserves to be treated with respect, just like you do. So when someone says “retard”, “retarded”, or even “‘tard”, take a stand. End the Word. Take it out of your vocabulary and ask others to do the same. Think about her. Do it for Anna. Do it for the elderly couple down the street that cares for their adult child with Down Syndrome. Do it for the kids that attend your child’s school. Do it because it’s the kind thing to do. Do it because you never know when life changes your lucky hand of cards.

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  • Sarah Phillips - Happy Birthday, Anna! I cringe every time I hear someone say it and always have. Thank you for sharing. <3ReplyCancel

  • angela king - happy birthday sweet anna!!!!!!
    what an awesome campaign. what an awesome post. i’ll admit that i’ve been guilty of using the “r” word in the past and reading your post, i feel guilty. i know i meant no harm by using it but i see that it does cause harm to others. i’m sure you cringe the same way i cringe when someone uses the word gay out of it’s intended context. i am going to rid this word from my vocabulary. for anna and everyone else in the world that it may hurt. thanks for opening my eyes holly. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Janda - I too have a child with special needs and watched her grow up without “real” friends. It’s hard to say the least. To her however everyone was her friend, no matter how bad they treated her. She is my hero, and always will be. Children with special needs sometimes teach us how we should be living our life. My daughter however grew up with only me as her advocate. All of her grandparents died before she was born, and her father and brother unfortunately could never cope with her needs. Their loss. She is now grown and still living with me and will always be my blessing from God.ReplyCancel

  • Dawnn Thornton - I commend you on taking a stand for your daughter, and many other children, teens and adults. I too have a special needs daughter. We have been through some of the roughest times of our lives, and have always had the most loving, friendliest angel to lift our spirits up while we were feeling bad for ourselves. We don’t have an actual name for what is wrong with my daughter though, which makes it hard to know how to care for her properly, so we do the best that we know how, and with the tools that we have been taught and learned along the way. She was born with bi-lateral clubbed feet, and was casted and braced for the first 3 yeafs of her life…she actually learned how to walk at 3 years old, with bent knee casts up to her hips, with a Dennis Brown bar between her legs connecting both casts. That is when we knew, that she would be teaching us some very important life lessons, which was, there was nothing that can hold you down, except yourself. She also has seizures, though hers aren’t too dibilitating….she has focal seizures, however, the older she gets, the less we have seen them…so we are hoping, that she is growing out of the. We have been to every specialist, and has had so many tests done…and always with a smile on her face. I have had her in school since she was 2.5 y/o, and love watching her learn new things every day. She has the vocabulary of a 3 year old. 2e work with her daily, and she is in speech therapy twice a week. I was in a car accident when I was pregnant, and the doctors think that she received a traumatic brain injury in utero, which they call a Diffuse Brain injury. But anyhow, now that you have an idea of her back ground….just like you said about Anna….my daughter Kaydence Grace, knows no stranger, and believes anyone she comes in contact with is her best friend, which can be extremely terrifying. This day in age, there are bad people out there that can and will take of advantage of that, whether it be pedophiles, or people taking advantage of her when she is older, be it financially, or play off of her friendliness. She is mainstreamed in her school where she does everything, except math and reading with typically developing kids her age, and then a special class for her reading and math. They typically developing children have taken her under their wings. They know something is diefferent with her, but when walking from classes, to the bus, ub luvh or recess, they make sure no one else messes with her, and also they make sure that she stay with her classmates, and doesn’t run off. They are her little guardian angels. I have heard the “R” word on too many occasions, and it gives me the chills, and physically makes me ill when I do hear it. I too used the word as a child and a teenager, but never directly about someone…I would use it as a adjective to describe something…ever since I had my daughter, I. Have removed that word from my vocabulary. My daughter has taught my husband and I and everyone she has ever met to be patient, to love unconditonally, and to love with every ounce of ourselves. She has also taught us, that no matter how tough life is, it can and will be OK, and just have faith. When we first realized something was different with her aside from her clubbed feett, my husband and I went through a “why us, why her” phase, and we learned that God, saw something in him and I, and gave Kaydence Grace to us for a reason, and hat God, doesn’t give angels like her to just anyone. He gives angels like her to special parents. We have learned so much from her, and I certainly will be passing this info along to spread the message that the “R” word hurts people, and its not just the person that is disabled…it also hurts all the people, family members, friends, and loved ones that have a disabled person in their lives. There is no love greater that the love that we receive from her. Also, we have a almost 3 year old son, that is already super protective of his big sister, when neighborhood children leave her out from playing, or say mean things, and upset my daughter. I can only imagine when he is older, what he will say or do to protect her.

    Thanks You for letting me speak about my beautiful daughter. She is my world.

    Mom of Kaydence Grace(8y/o), and Huntley Dail(3y/o)

    Dawnn Thornton
    Sutherland, Virginia
    31y/oReplyCancel

  • Anna - Dear dear lovely Holly and special lovely Anna. Here I am sitting, tears behind my eyes.
    I know how such a small word can hurt people by my own experience as a child. And I can feel the hurt it does to you both.
    Sometimes people don’t know what they say and don’t look beyond the human being they see.
    What I see, when I read this blog is a lovely mother and her beautiful daughter Anna. And not only from the outside, but most important: your character. Stay who you are. You are the best.
    xReplyCancel

  • Holly - My dear friends. I have been moved to tears reading each of your stories. Tears, real true tears. Thank you for commenting and sharing your stories.

    Sarah, you are a true sweetheart. I adore you.

    Angela, I am so proud of you! Thank you for your raw honesty and your commitment. I am proud to call you my friend.

    Janda, my heart broke reading your story. Their loss indeed! You are a special momma and person. I would be honored to get to know your daughter.

    Dawnn, thank you for introducing me to Kaydence Grace. I too worry so much about people (boys, men) taking advantage of my sweeting, trusting little girl. She knows no strangers either. Dominic, Anna’s little brother, will protect her just like your Huntley will protect Kaydence Grace. Thank you for sharing your story and for reaching out to me. <3

    Anna, thank you, thank you. Your words touched me deeply. I adore you. <3ReplyCancel

  • Staci - happy birthday to anna <3

    i too absolutely detest that word. my 15 year-old cousin has down's, and when my students (middle schoolers) use it, i always show them a picture of him and explain how the word hurts him, and me. hopefully it will be a word seldom used soon!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - Happy happy day to your whole family! This was such a beautiful post to read. So heartfelt and moving. I almost don’t have the words for how it touched me. I truly appreciate how you take a stand not just for your kids but for all kids who struggle. I admire you (all of you) so much. xo LaurenReplyCancel

  • Lauren - P.S. I LOVE the photo of Anna where you’re all singing to her. She looks so beautiful!ReplyCancel

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