Meaning stupid, dumb, slow, ugly or incompetent.
And when I hear you say it, it means Jack Jack.
Because Jack Jack will carry the diagnosis of “mentally retarded” all his life. And when that word is bandied around as an insult, a slur and a joke, it makes a joke out of him.
I know, I know that you didn’t mean Jack Jack when you said it, or posted that joke on Face Book. I get that. I grew up in the 80s too. But it does demean him. Spend two minutes on Facebook and you will find all sorts of “how retarded are you” quizzes, with pictures of people with Down syndrome as the focus of their mocking. Imagine how much of a punch in the gut that is to me every single time. Imagine how crushed Violet and Dash will be when they hear it and understand.
I have grown in my boldness in asking people to reconsider using that word. And I have been most pleasantly surprised! Many friends and relatives, when it’s brought to their attention apologize, ask forgiveness, delete the joke and take it out of their vocabulary. Our little corner of the world is pretty awesome that way.
But it’s still in movies and books and comedians and movie stars say it all the time. People like Jack Jack are still the one group of people that can be mocked and when others say “hey, don’t do that”, are accused of being too sensitive, and politically correct. Lots of my fellow Down syndrome moms have been told to get over themselves. Well, we won’t. We’ll keep asking you not to say the R word, keep demanding respect for our children, keep making noise until everyone, from the junior high kids to George Clooney hear us.
Let’s make a real difference in the way people with mental disabilities are treated and talked about. Let’s make it, so that when Violet and Dash are tweens they won’t have to cringe or cry because someone said, “I look so retarded today.” and wonder if the way their brother looks is what that person had in mind.
Today Special Olympics and other organizations, have declared it “Spread the Word to End the Word” day.
I hope you will.