Today is the National Day to 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.
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.
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?)
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.