The “R” Word: Parents, Help Me Spread the Word to End This Word by Sue Westervelt
More than likely, no one reading this is unaware of what the “R” word is. But if you are, I’ll give you a hint: It’s a word that describes a person with slow or limited intellectual or emotional development, better known as mental retardation.
As a parent of a child with autism, I am an advocate not just for my son but for all people living with disabilities. There is no other word on this planet that I find more hateful, unjust or offensive than the “R” word. I believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe in basic human kindness, dignity and compassion, too. It’s the one word that can bring tears to my eyes, pain to my heart and sickness to my stomach.
So, what can we do when we hear “the word?” As a parent this is a great opportunity to remind your children of a time when they felt the pain of a hurtful word. With adults, respectfully ask them why they chose that word. Or share that the word upsets you and possibly others around you. Make it a teachable moment and educate the person to speak for those who cannot, and to advocate for families like mine.
Visit R-Word.org and join nearly 800,000 others who have pledged to “spread the word to end the word.”
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