The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘retard’ formally as a “delay or holdback in terms of progress or development.” Informally and very offensively it says it refers to “a person who has a mental disability (often used as a general term of abuse.)”
Medically before the 20th century (yes that long ago!) The term ‘mental retardation’ was replaced with new words; intellectual disability. So, why is it that it’s been around 150 years since the term ‘retard’ was proved as being a derogative and degrading term, yet some how people still use the hurtful word all day, every day?
Did you know that 2-3% of the world population are diagnosed with an intellectual disability? And did you know that 70-95% of those people affected have a mild/moderate intellectual disability, this includes all disability’s, including Down Syndrome. Theo is 3 months old. He is a baby. He is learning to smile, holding his head, doing tummy time and cooing like any ‘normal’ baby. Albeit he is currently in hospital so we may have to take a step back for a while but his health is more important to me than any ‘learning’ race. All children learn at different rates some without a learning disability may even learn slower than some with. Everyone is different snd that’s OK. So why is it acceptable to describe someone with a LD as being ‘retarded’ and not someone who could perhaps develop a bit slower without a LD? Why? because it is a term intended to be hurtful and exclusive, to single out people and make them feel unincluded.
Ask yourself is it acceptable to call someone who is black a ‘nigga’ or someone who is gay a ‘fag?’ No it definitely is NOT. So do not call somebody with or without a LD ‘retarded.’ I first heard the term ‘retard’ when I was around 14, up until this point I had never fallen upon this word. The most likely-hood is because teenage years are those years often associated with bullying and name calling. So out surfaced this word one day and since then I’ve heard it all the time. Little did I know it was a hurtful word let alone ‘hate speech’ ! I had no idea what it meant.
When I finally ‘thought’ I learned what it meant I thought it was a medical word used to describe seriously mentally and physically ill individuals (this is when i began to frown upon the term when it was mentioned) Which still wasn’t the case. Prior to this I thought it was just a basic word to describe someone who was being ‘silly’ or ‘idiotic,’ as it was thrown around like basic terminology.
It wasn’t until I had Theo that someone explained to me how it was an old medical term that meant ‘slow’ usually used to describe an individual who had Down Syndrome. I can assure you if I have ever used this word before I found out what it meant and that it wasn’t describing someone as being ‘silly’ I would never had used it or meant it. I would have never purposely stared at something I had tripped over and said ‘what a retard’ if I had known what it meant. I mean basically there I am at 14 thinking I was calling myself silly for tripping over a shoe when really if I’d known what I was saying it would’ve sounded like ‘what a Down Syndrome,’ I mean how does that even make sense!?
So the best outcome is to not use a word you don’t understand just because everyone else is using it. Now you know what ‘retard’ means don’t use it. It is not even recognised as a medical term any more! Everyone should be respected and treated the same regardless of race, sex, disability etc… There have been times where people have said this word around me after having Theo, most of the time they trail off in the middle of what they were saying realising what they’d said. Not all people who use this word are trying to be offensive it’s often a misunderstanding or an accident, but it hurts a specific group of individuals. That’s why it’s important to eradicate the word from our own vocabulary and think before we speak. It can be hard to stand up for yourself or loved ones, but it never hurts to politely correct someone, the majority of the time you’ll get a positive response back. The more posts and blogs like these that reach people the more likely we are to only hear these hurtful words once in a blue moon. So join the campaign and ‘Spread the word to End the word.’ God forbid the day anybody uses the word to describe my little boy with the intention to cause hurt and seclusion, that’s all I can say.