retard: a contemptuous term used to refer to a person who is cognitively impaired. Dictionary.com
The term “retarded” didn’t appear in the slangy, usually offensive sense until the mid-20th century. Frank Rooney’s 1954 novel “The Courts of Memory” contains an insulting use that should be familiar if not comfortable: “God, you’re simple, Dick. . . . You’ve got an I.Q. about equal to a squirrel’s. You’re retarded, do you hear me?” The Oxford English Dictionary offers an understated way of describing the current radioactivity of “retard,” “retarded,” and “retardation”: Each is “not the preferred term.”
The Dirty Word
When Asher was born, it was a learning curve. I had no idea what it felt like to have my heart beat outside of my body. The thought of anything hurting him made me physically ill. In time, this new reality became second nature. Then, the bad news started rolling in.
“He has cysts on his brain.”
“He has a heart problem”
“He is not meeting goals.”
It was years of one blow after another.
In the meantime, I was parenting him like any other child, with the additions of multiple therapy sessions each month and doctors visits all the time.
It was not long after first learning about my son’s challenges I first heard the word “retarded” spoken in slang.
This was not my first time hearing the word. It was, however, the first time the word revolted me. I was lava hot mad. I’m surprised I didn’t spontaniously combust on the spot. I was LIVID. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the word used as an assault towards another more times than I care to remember.
Dirty Word Begins
Schools and the medical community are always changing the “label” for special needs children.
Because ignorant and hateful people keep turning these words into slang describing those they feel are less.
Today, the word “exceptional” has replaced all previous words. The term is accurate despite the fact people will turn this word into something to be laughed at or avoided. At some point, the word will be changed again.
“Retard” does seem to hang on in slang.
Cleaning up the Dirty
Though the word has been used to break the backs of enemies in verbal combat, I would like to take a moment to bring an awareness most may not have considered.
I propose this:
If you are not a special needs person, you are retarded.
You are the one who is slow.
You are the one missing something.
In my experience being around special needs children, they are brilliant. Seriously. Some could probably build rockets. Others, they have a niche for enjoying life. There is much diversity in the intellect in special needs children.
One factor I find the most common is this:
An ability to see the world in a way we could only dream of.
It is as if everything is beautiful. It is a vision of another dimension to humanity, and they have little patience for those who cannot see it.
Jesus called this dimension “the kingdom of God.” Remember, he said time and time again, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” He said it was available right now. The suggestion was we didn’t have to die to experience heaven. Even his patience was tried by those lacking vision.
Buddha describes this ability as “enlightenment.”
My kid knows this. He is enlightened to the kingdom of heaven. Most special needs children are. They “see” something we do not. They understand concepts completely out of our reach. (See THIS article for an example)
Special education teachers, therapists, and doctors will all tell you the same. Special needs folks are simply amazing.
My son taught me a lot about myself.
I am the one who is slow on the uptake.
I am the one who lets the worries of this world steal my joy.
I am the one whose mind is in a constant state of chaos.
I am the one not noticing the sunset, sunrise, and light in people’s hearts.
I am the one not living in the here and the now.
I am the one working too hard and breathing too little.
I am the one slow in seeing the beauty of what this world is…not what it could be.
I am the one who needs to be more like him.
I am retarded.
Yeah…I might be able to talk, walk, write, sing, not worry about my health too much, and so on, but, I am missing out on the greatness of life. My vision is blurred.
So, the next time you use this word in a way to harm another in front of me, please understand.
I know the truth. You are speaking of yourself.
Only retarded people would be ignorant enough to not see our special needs children for who they are.
Who are they?
They are our only hope to knowing truth.
The Dirty Truth
I wish people would just stop using any term using my son, and countless other beautiful people, as a description of what not to be or a description of “less than” me. It is ignorance defined.
Here is the real truth.
My son, and the sons and daughters of parents who are blessed enough to have a child who is special needs, know something you do not.
Our children are magical. They hold the keys to joy and knowledge. They are not perfect. However…
They are not retarded.