Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Words are like Weapons

"Words are like weapons, sharper than knives."

The second you become a parent, that protective instinct kicks in. Your baby is your whole world and you would do anything to protect her. You're a mama lion, and you'll bite the head off of anyone that messes with your cub, directly or indirectly. I have found this even more true having a child with autism. As a parent of a differently abled child, you're on constant high alert.  You know the ignorance is out there, lurking in the form of a glaring stranger when your child stims to keep herself calm, or an uneducated youth making an insensitive comment.

This is the indirect harm I am referring to.  Insensitive comments can be very hurtful, even when your child is not within earshot.  This happened to me just recently. It was the beginning of the work day and my crew was milling about, waiting for the okay to start our work day. A few of the guys were joking around, calling each other names. One asked:

"Why do you call him that?"

to which the first responded,

"Oh, because he's [so and so's] retarded brother."

I didn't hear the rest of the conversation or the crude noises made afterward,  because at this point I was so angry I was seeing red. It may not have been directed at myself or at Jordan, but to me it didn't matter. Language like that is a direct insult to my Jordan Elizabeth and all  individuals like her. I took several steadying breaths, turned around and snapped at them to watch their mouths. There was a momentary stunned silence and a chorus of mumbled apologies, but the damage was done. Not only was I fuming, but I was also devastated.Why would they make such harsh, insensitive comments about people like my little girl? It chewed away at me for a few hours until I went to my boss and reported it, on the verge of tears. My boss, being able to sympathize with my situation, was very understanding. All involved parties were dealt with accordingly, which brought me a sense of satisfaction, but not a sense of closure. It still hurts. This leads people to believe that the developmentally or intellectually disabled (differently abled) are sub-human and not worth treating with respect. 

With the prevalence of autism, downs syndrome and other developmental and intellectual disabilities, it surprises me that people still use the word "retarded" so freely. And almost every time it's used, it's in a negative connotation. It's used to insinuate that someone is beneath you in lines of intelligence, and can't possibly understand because they are too stupid. The media is worse. In shows like "Family Guy" (which I find myself liking less and less) this word is depicted in the worst ways, showing in one episode an autistic child in a helmet and protective gear, slurring his words and petting Brian the dog too hard, causing Brian to bite him on the hand. It's meant to be funny, but in reality it is insulting and demeaning. The writers and creators of the show should be ashamed. I have met many people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and they are the sweetest,  most pleasant people I have ever met and have the most positive outlooks on life. They are wise beyond their years, my baby girl included., and could really teach a lot of us a thing or two about personal conduct. 

Most of the time, when today's youth uses that word,  I hear "oh, they're young, they don't get it." or "they're just uneducated." in defense of their ignorant actions. Well, I am sorry, but those are just not valid excuses anymore. The resources available and coverage of all the charity organizations (Best Buddies, The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism for example)  on the news  are plentiful, so there is no reason for anyone not to understand that the word "retarded" is hurtful, harmful, and should never  ever be used. Period. 

You see what I mean about protective instinct?

My little star!

Links:    The Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism                      Best Buddies                   Autism Speaks                 The Autism Society

Educate Yourself and Others!  April is Autism Awareness Month and Monday April 2nd is National Autism Awareness Day! I will be wearing my blue and my puzzle piece pin! Will you?

1 comment:

  1. I feel your frustration on this one. My MIL is an aide in a special needs classroom in Cohasset High School and takes care of two teenage boys with Smith Lemli Opitz. My nephew is autistic and then we have Jacob so it gets under my skin too.

    I feel the best way I can go about it is to teach my kids what is appropriate and not appropriate and to always consider the source.

    As a Christian, I do not take the Lord's name in vain or swear and I can't tell you how many OMG's we hear when out and about, but not everyone has the same values and morals I do so I can't hold them to my standards.

    The best I can do is teach my kids why we don't use those words and lead by good example!