Friday, June 3, 2011

When people say the word retard...

When people say the word "retard", honestly, I don't always want to speak up.

For example, when a close friend or family member says "retard" or "retarded" I know for sure they aren't using it in a derogatory way. They aren't thinking of Polly or Evie. I know they love my kids. They have simply gotten in the habit of using slang. They probably don't even realize what it means and I know I will embarrass them when I point out their choice of wording.

When people say the word "retard", sometimes I don't want to speak up because I am tired. There are days when I don't want to be an advocate. If I'm out with a group of girlfriends, or at a dinner party, I don't want to stop the conversation and explain to the person who used the word how it is offensive. I don't want to ask her to please stop. I just want to eat my food and enjoy my time.

When people say the word "retard", there are many times I want to let it go. I want to ignore it because I don't want to be classified as a mother to a child with Down syndrome. I just want to be known as a mom: Elaina's mom, Zoya's mom, Polly's mom, and Evie's mom.

When people say the word "retard", or poke fun in some other way at people with disabilities, I don't always want to correct them. If they are going to be stupid and offensive, let them. I don't have a well full of energy these days. I'd rather focus on other things.


When people say the word "retard"...

I make myself speak up, even if I am tired, or if I want to just be known as a mom in that circle or if I know that the person doesn't mean what she says.

Because I am a mother to two children with Down syndrome. I am an advocate. And I want to be a good friend and family member. And a lot of times that includes educating people on the use of 'retard' as hate speech.

I speak up because someday Polly will hear that word, and she may know what it means, and it could break her heart.

So if you are around me and you say "retard" and poke fun at people with disabilities... be forewarned that it is my duty to speak up.

Because of my love for my kids.


  1. Well said, Gillian. Beautiful post.

  2. yes, very well said Gillian.

    I feel the same way.

    The other day I heard my Autistic son say the word "retard" and I asked him where he learned it and he said it was a word the kids at school use. He asked what it meant. I had to explain to my 9 year old son that not so long ago people with Autism and other special needs would have been called retarded. I told him it is a mean word and not a true word. I told him that we never ever ever say that word and we must tell a teacher or other grown-up when kids say it to him on the playground.

    It made me so sad that my son has ever even heard the word. It makes me even more sad to know that those kids at school were probably calling HIM that word.

    It is NOT ok.

  3. You go, Gillian! I'm so proud of you for your voice and your writing!

  4. Thank you for writing about this. Tired or not, the spirit inside rises above the fray to educate and enlighten those less sensitive to the hurt it causes others. - Jeffrey Johnson

  5. Becca, thank you!

    Tara, I hear you. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Thanks Kate! I feel the same about you.

    Jeff, thanks for the reminder.

  6. we should all speak up! Great post Gillian!!

  7. Great post,Gillian...may we all speak up and make a difference!

  8. Just found your blog through another I read. My 2 year old little girl Emily has DS. I'll be following your journey :-)

    Kelli @

  9. Hi Kelli! I'll be checking out your blog too. Hugs! Have to see your little cutie :).

  10. This is such a great post. One of my students when I taught middle school came to my room in tears when she heard another child use the word "retard" in the lunchroom. She knew that was her diagnosis (in Texas at the time, "mentally retarded" was the term used in IEP paperwork), and she was heartbroken.

    Keep advocating. Keep speaking up. Even when you're tired or hesitant. It matters.


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