Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A GREAT Dear Abby

April 3, 2007, 1:11AM
Dear Abby
Rude use of 'retarded' hurts many

Dear Abby:

I was so glad to see the letter from "Irritated in Missouri" (Feb. 11), referring to people calling each other "retarded."

I have a son with Down syndrome who is my absolute joy, and it breaks my heart to hear people use his disability as a derogatory insult. My son is my hero, and I am proud to be his mother. I cannot say his name without smiling.

No parent I know denies that their "special" children are mentally retarded, but to use the name of their disability in a derogatory and insulting manner is inexcusable.

Thanks for letting me vent!


Dear Proud:

You're welcome. I, too, have heard the word "retarded" abused, and some of the people who have done it are in public life and should know better.

When I printed that letter, it resonated with many readers who have family members with disabilities who also described how hurtful it is.

Read on:

Dear Abby:

I am the younger sister of a mentally retarded woman. Anyone who knows my sister knows she is sweet, funny and caring.

She also has feelings and knows when she's being ridiculed, even if she doesn't always understand what is being said about her.

I have heard people my whole life use the word "retarded" as a derogatory slur. They stare and talk like we can't hear them when we're out with my sister.

I was taught from an early age that teasing anyone for any reason is wrong. I would have been punished for behaving that way.

I can understand the curiosity of small children. But older children and adults need a refresher course on basic manners, and parents and schools should stop turning a blind eye toward children who behave like this.

MISS M. in Ormond Beach, Fla.

Dear Abby:

I am the parent of a daughter with developmental disabilities, and it is painful when I hear a friend or colleague use the term as an insult. Thank you, Abby, for reminding people to treat others with respect.

For people who would like to learn how to talk sensitively about people with disabilities, I recommend a Web site: www.disabilityisnatural.com. There they will find commentary regarding "People First Language." I hope this is helpful.

TRICIA T., Roswell, Ga.


Jessica said...

I'm bothered that the word is used at all and especially as an accepted term professionally. The diagnosis (mental retardation, mentally retarded, etc) and the fact that some people even have the word as part of their professional title (QMRP) is just absurd.

Tara A. Rowe said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm bothered immensely when my younger brother (who knows better) uses the word as a derogatory term when talking about something he doesn't like.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Perhaps I should have prefaced this entry with a few little known bits of info about me--I have two developmentally disabled siblings, my family owns a facility for the developmentally disabled, and I currently work as a houseparent in an assisted living facility for developmentally disabled adults. Hence the reason this particular Dear Abby struck home with me.

Jessica said...

Let's start a movement to totally eradicate the word.

I worked with a client who was 9 years old and would use the word. So when he used it in reference to a person, I would ask if they had been diagnosed with MR, because it was actually a diagnosis. At least I got him to think about it more.

When I talk to people who don't work with the DD population, they are always shocked to hear that the word is actually used in professional/medical ways.

Lest I forget, when I was in a chamber choir in high school my choir teacher would talk about "ritardondo," which means to slow (I think). WTF!