Today is the day, Spread The Word to End the Word’s Annual Day of Awareness. Although I will correct people throughout the year, this is the one BIG day to take a unified stand to tell the rest of the world that the R-word is NOT okay to use.
Since I was a child I have heard people use that word as a punch line to a joke, or to insinuate that someone they were dealing with was stupid and/or lazy. It is HORRIBLE to use that word, and I simply will not tolerate its use in my home, or in the presence of my family. If I see people on FaceBook using it in any way, they are removed from my friends list on my personal page, and/or banned from the blog’s fan page.
When I was in seventh grade, the Lord put my feet on a path that would warm my heart and forever change the way I reacted to language. I was blessed to be allowed to help out in the Special Ed classes, because at that time there was no inclusion. I spent my study hall, gym and lunch hours with these amazing individuals. Thoughtlessly, I used to refer to them as “kids” but in truth most were my senior by many years. It was an amazing experience, and it made me a better person, to learn from such wonderful people. It was not always fun, and it certainly wasn’t easy, but then what in life, worth having and/or doing is? I remember once being hit by a desk, because one of the girls was having a “violent outburst” I also remember moving faster the next time it happened. Eventually, there were times I could even help to calm her before she got too upset. We were all learning together, and that is what school, and life, is all about.
When I moved into high-school, I was thankful to be allowed to continue seeing my friends on a daily basis in all the same activities as junior-high. My favorite part of the week was taking my one friend with MS out of her wheelchair and working out her muscles in the pool with one of the teachers and her aide. Tracy always had the BEST smile and laugh. When I coached Special Olympics my friend Juan won his race, Spiderman gave him his medal, he screeched with joy, and I cried at his triumph. When Prom time approached, I attended prom with my friends at their co-op’s recreational center. The happiness and fun I experienced with my friends at their prom, was infinitely better than my own prom. It was a different atmosphere and I will forever be grateful for the invitation and all the fun I shared with my friends.
In my adult life I continued to support the Special Needs community, and even volunteer or work in it, when possible. It is a different world that is filled with love, laughter, and friendship that I have yet to see equaled anywhere. The extraordinary individuals that comprise the Special Needs community are truly the most beautiful rainbows that have ever graced the earth.
As a parent I find my family joining this amazing community, with our Autistic daughter blazing the trail ahead of us. All the respect and love I felt for 25 years as a person blessed to have friends in the Special Needs community, cannot come close to the love and pride I feel for Beth, and all her extraordinary friends.
Sadly, being an adult or child who is different opens these exceptional individuals up to criticism and cruelty from the outside world. When I meet someone who does not understand how hurtful their words are, I explain that they are disrespecting my child and all the other amazing individuals in the world who live with Differing Abilities. Some don’t get it and some don’t care, but when I see the proverbial light go on and someone pauses to consider the ramifications of that word, then I can smile. One Day at a time, One Person at a time, we can change the world, and eliminate the R-Word from the world’s vocabulary. Another way that I choose to attempt to shed light on the disrespect the R-word conveys, is to NOT spend my money on music, videos, movies, books, etc… that use it in a derogatory manner. There have been several movies banned from this house for their use of the R-word, and for making fun of Special Needs individuals. I will not have that kind of Hate Speech in my home. What will you do to Spread the Word to End to Word?
We will not always be able to protect our loved ones from the ugliness that exists in the thoughtless words and/or actions of others, but today we can take a stand. Today we can pledge, or renew our pledge, to Spread the Word to End the Word at http://r-word.org/
MY pledge: I will make every effort to educate people when it comes to the damage inflicted by use of the R-Word. I will fight for acceptance and respect for ALL people regardless of differing abilities. I will teach my children to NEVER use the R-word and to be kind when speaking about and to people. I will Spread the Word to end the Word, the only way I know how, by Thinking BEFORE I Speak, and by practicing what I preach.
Autism Proud – Journey With Us – by Jest Tu Positive by Dorothy Stronglove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.