Monday, March 26, 2012

Retarded

"Some people have mental retardation (intellectual disabilities). While mental retardation is not a bad word, when used to describe someone or something you think is bad or stupid it becomes another thoughtless hurtful word. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not bad. Their condition is not bad. The prejudice and discrimination to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is bad... and wrong! Please stop using the word 'retard'. It hurts individuals and families of those with disabilities." - The "r" Word Campaign

This word is way over-used. I am so tired of hearing it. I find it highly offensive. I do not have a mental handicap, nor does anyone in my immediate family. However, I know a number of people who do have mental retardation. I could write pages and pages on how each of these people I know are wonderful people. I remember as a young kid, I had many friends of different races and different abilities. I had no idea that they were any different from me. I look back now and can think of a number of friends of mine who probably to this day struggle with some kind of social problem or mental disability. One had crossed eyes and her speech was somewhat off. Another did not do well in school work, was such a silly wild girl and was made fun of sometimes for that, and had some physical problems. But when we were kids, we were friends, and that was all that mattered. I did not notice their flaws until I was older and became more aware.
But these people had such a special a place in my heart as my friends, that by the time I became aware, it didn't matter.

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to work with the severely handicapped youth in the school. Most of these kids were wheel-chair bound, and if they were not, they often needed someone to hold their arm and help guide them across the classroom/hallway. My gym class period was at the same time as their gym class was. My coach asked for volunteers who would like to spend Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week doing exercises with these kids.
I worked with a girl named Emily. To this day I don't know what she had, what she had been through, or anything. I knew she was fed with a feeding tube in her stomach, was not verbal, had surgery on her legs about a year before, and was working on being able to stand up and walk again. So when she was not in a chair, she was in something similar to a hand trolley. We would strap her into it, and she would get to stand in it, with some weight going into her legs to help build up strength. We would take her out of the stand and she would face one of us (a fellow teacher or myself), grabbing our arms, and would concentrate on moving her legs. It was difficult and painful, we could tell. But the encouragement we gave her, and the smile on her face when she made five shuffled steps was so exciting to all of us.
When we weren't doing walking exercises, I would wheel her around in her standing trolley, running around, spinning in circles, playing stop and go games. She would laugh and scream the whole time, waving her arms in pure glee. And when we were done, to show me she liked me, she would grab my glasses as quick as she could and throw them across the room, then hit me on top of the head, point and laugh, and then just stand there and smile.
If she didn't like you, she wouldn't look at you, acknowledge you, or anything.
She hit me a lot, and I was really glad I had sturdy glasses.

I remember on the last day that we got to meet, I told her this would be my last day working with her. She kept insisting we do the running game. After a while, she had me stop and come face her. She put her hands on my hands, and moved them up my arm, like she would sometimes do. She likes to touch. She kept moving her hands up my arms, and then pulled me to her until her arms were completely around me. I wrapped my arms around her and she smiled.
Just a hug. So simple, but probably the sweetest one I have ever received in my life.



When I hear people get frustrated about something a person said, or something they have to do, and refer to such negative things as "retarded", it hurts me. It really does. I know it's completely thoughtless, what they're saying, and their intentions are not to hurt. But thinking about what you are saying is so important.


I am out of words. Please just think.

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