Words Hurt

re-tard – To delay or hold back in terms of progress, development or accomplishment.

The term ‘mental retardation’ was a medical term in the middle of the 20th century used to describe patients with an IQ less than 70. The medical community has now adopted the term ‘intellectual disability’ instead because the word retard is offensive, derogatory, and hurtful.

The word “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.

I will be the first to admit that I was probably the biggest offender to throw out this word to describe pretty much anything and everything… “thats so retarded”, “don’t be retarded”, “this job is retarded”, “I feel like such a retard”, “retard, retard, retard….” I never thought twice about using this word, it was just part of my everyday vocabulary.

When my wife and I started pursing the adoption of a special needs child we started to be more aware of the words we use, how we use them and the implications of them. The world ‘retard’ was the first to be thrown out of our vocabulary followed by a few other hurtful, excluding words. Don’t get me wrong, we still swear like truckers and say some pretty rude things BUT we are aware of the hurtful, excluding words that we have used in the past and do make a conscious effort to not use them.

When I hear family or friends use the ‘r’ word in everyday language I will ask you kindly to stop. Please Don’t

  • Apologize – I get you’re not directly calling my son that
  • Argue – Don’t defend the use of this word. Again, I get that you’re not directly calling my son a retard, but the word does directly or indirectly refer to a person with an intellectual disability. Which again only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.

All I ask is that you stop and we move on, and hopefully you become more aware of how much that word is used in everyday vocabulary. Educate your friends and family about the use of this hurtful word.

That being said, if I ever hear you directly refer to my son as the ‘r’ word, I will beat the living hell out of you. THAT. IS. ALL…..




3 thoughts on “Words Hurt

  1. I totally agree! It kind of boggles my mind that people still use this word in that context. Or in any context, for that matter. Another word that needs to be banished is ‘handicapped’…..it’s borne out of the Dickensian ‘cap-in-hand’ mentality of the disabled boy who is begging for shillings, cap-in-hand.


  2. I hate both those words. I have a wonderful little girl who is autistic and had one mother at a mommy playgroup use that “r” at my daughter and say she pitied us. I don’t want pity I am in love with my daughter the way she is. She is my perfect child.


    1. Tess…..seriously? Someone actually said this to you at a playgroup???? About your own daughter? No idea how you kept your cool. And again, I am still stunned that people actually continue to use these phrases.


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