As a parent of a child who has Down syndrome, there’s one word that makes my stomach churn every time I hear it, the R-word.
I admit, as a teenager and young adult, I used the word more times than I can count. I used to be so far from “politically correct” with a lot of my language before I became a parent. You never knew what the heck was going to come out of my mouth. Looking back, it was pathetic. But that was then and this is now, and I can’t dwell on my own past actions, but hopefully I can help to change someone’s future actions.
Come on people, words can hurt. They can really hurt, even if you don’t mean them in the context you say them. It doesn’t matter if it’s the r-word, n-word, making fun of someone who is gay, Jewish, Christian, anything hate related. It all plain old hurts to someone at some point!
I’ll never forget the last time I said the r-word. I was pregnant with Joey and we had recently gotten my prenatal diagnosis. I was laying in bed watching TV one evening. I can’t remember exactly what I was watching but I remember laughing out loud to myself and saying, “That’s so ret@rded!”
As soon as the word came out of my mouth, I realized what I had said and tears filled my eyes. I could feel Joey fluttering around in my stomach as I wiped away the tears then started rubbing my stomach. I vowed right then and there to NEVER use the r-word again. And 11 years later, I still haven’t used that word and never will again.
I’ve called people out on using the word before in front of me. Most used the excuse, “I didn’t mean it that way.” I know they didn’t but then how DID they mean it?
I don’t call people out as much as I used to. Instead, I take a deep breath and I pray for that person. I pray that they open their eyes and see how beautiful Joey and others like him are and they don’t deserve to be associated with language like that.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But as for ignorant people who use the r-word on a daily basis along with other hateful words, I just pray for them and pray that someday they will change. Heck, if I can change, ANYONE can.
I know that years ago, it was acceptable for people to use the r-word when referring to individuals with Down syndrome, and Autism. But times have changed, and as a parent of such an extraordinary child, I must advocate for him in every single way possible.
There is only one r-word that should be used towards individuals with any intellectual or developmental disability and that word is RESPECT!