Spread the word to end the word day is Wednesday March 7th. It’s a cause close to my heart. If you would consider signing the pledge it would mean the world to me and Owen.
In case you didn’t know, the word we want to end is retard(ed). It used to be a medical term but now it is used as an insult. People compare things they don’t like to being retarded. It hurts. Every single time I hear someone casually say, “That’s so retarded!” I feel like someone kicked me in the stomach. It literally takes me breath away. I stand there wondering if I should say something. Is it worth it to start a fight? Will it change anything? I hate myself every time I just walk away.
If you use the r-word as an insult, consider how you would feel if you were Owen. Think about how you would feel if someone said that to someone you love. If you’ve said it in the past and feel awful right now, don’t. Take this moment to say you won’t do it again.
Last year we made a video highlighting all kinds of other words you could use instead of the r-word. Some of Owen’s friends posed and shared their ideas for other options, words like ridiculous and absurd. It was awesome and I loved the opportunity to talk to them about why the r-word was hurtful and other ways they could say they didn’t like something.
In response to my request for images sharing alternative words, my sweet friend Susan sent a photo of her daughter with a positive word instead. Susan was one of those people who was always upbeat and positive. When I would complain about people approaching me and saying rude things when Owen was younger, she would just smile and tell me she loved the opportunity to teach people. I wish I was more like her. We worked together to find a new word for her daughter’s photo because the one she chose wasn’t what I’d had in mind for my project, but it got me thinking. Maybe the solution to the r-word problem isn’t just finding new ways to say something negative instead of using the r-word. Maybe instead we could think about the people in our lives that we love who just happen to have special needs and talk about what makes them so amazing. It isn’t just shifting the words we use it’s also important to see people with disabilities are real people, people with goals, interests and talents.
Today, I’d love it if you think about anyone you know who has special needs and what makes them so great. If the first thing you think is that they are always happy, dig a little deeper. Think really hard. What do they like to do? What are they good at? Do you know their favorite game? What’s their favorite color? If you only know that they are happy or that they remind you to appreciate the simple things in life, maybe you don’t know them very well after all. If that’s the case, I’d like to challenge you to get to know them better.
I want to tell you some of my favorite things about Owen.
He is funny. I mean really, really, funny. He cracks me up all the time with his jokes. I don’t even know where he comes up with some of this stuff.
Owen loves to dance. When he is dancing he is so happy you can’t help but feel happy too. Strangers have come up to us and started dancing with him because you just can’t help it.
He loves Super Mario. Like a lot. His enthusiasm for Mario is contagious.
Reading is one of his favorite things to do. Listening to him read brings me so much joy. I used to read everything when I was his age, and I mean everything. Seriously. I read shampoo bottles. I love that this is something we have in common.
Owen loves his body. He loves to pull up his shirt and look at his chubby tummy. He pats it with his hands and smiles at himself in the mirror. If I had 1/10 of his confidence, I could rule the world.
I love this kid so much. He is amazing in every way. I hope you remember that the next time you are tempted to flippantly use the r-word and instead you choose a better way to express yourself.
Check out the campaign.