Growing up with an aunt and an uncle with intellectual disabilities taught me more about life than sitting in a classroom ever did. It taught me acceptance of others who are different than me, that there’s a reason to laugh in almost any situation, and most importantly patience. In college, I rushed my sorority pretty much solely based on their involvement with people with disabilities and the Special Olympics. It’s because of these experiences that I absolutely cannot tolerate the use of the “r-word.” If you use the r-word in casual conversation, there’s a 100% chance we are not going to be friends. Since I understand not everyone has the same experiences as me to known how hurtful this word is, here are “4 Reasons to Stop Using the R-Word”:
The R-Word equates intellectual disabilities with being dumb or stupid
People with intellectual disabilities are neither dumb or stupid, in fact, many people on the autism spectrum or have severe ADHD have I.Q.s that blow the general population’s out of the water (Einstein anyone?). By using the r-word, you are saying, “the main characteristic of someone with a disability is their stupidity.” nothing could be further from the truth.
The R-Word ignores individuality
Yes, people with intellectual disabilities are different from the rest of us that do not have an intellectual disability. Words do matter, and words do hurt. There is no need to make a mockery of the things that make us different from each other or make someone feel worse about themselves because they do things or think differently than others. Everyone has a gift, and we should celebrate that.
The R-Word is derogatory
Just like the n-word is not appropriate, neither is the r-word. Both words represent a history soaked in abuse, discrimination, and fear. In the 50’s, the only “treatment” they offered to people with intellectual disabilities from poor families was the put them in mental institutions and treat them like animals. Even in today’s society, children with intellectual disabilities are three times more likely to suffer abuse. By using the r-word, you are unknowingly telling people with disabilities and the people who love and care for them that they deserve to be segregated, hidden away from society, and treated like lesser beings.
The R-Word creates loneliness
Imagine you’re the kid with anything from down syndrome to dyslexia sitting on the bus listening to your friends say “r-word this” and “r-word” that. How would you feel? I think we can all agree it would be pretty isolating to hear people demean a whole group of people you belong to. It would make you less likely to openly discuss your disability. It would make you self-conscious. Life is already hard enough, and there is no reason to be unkind of hurtful to others with the use of a word you could simply just stop using.