One of my college sorority sisters has a 12-year-old son named Jack with autism. (She also has two younger sons, ages 9 and 7.) In the years following Jack’s diagnosis, Shannon has become an incredible advocate for special-needs families, from appealing to her Connecticut lawmakers to spearhead insurance reform to guarantee coverage for therapies to cofounding a tennis camp where special-needs kids can learn the sport in a social setting and develop confidence. She is terrific and tireless, and I am proud to know her. Recently, she posted on Facebook that March is the official month of a campaign called R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word. Clicking on a link to the sponsoring organization, I learned that this important initiative was founded in 2009 by college students aiming to educate society about how hurtful and dehumanizing it is to casually refer to people with intellectual disabilities as "retarded." Now, to those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, that word can be more or less a synonym for "stupid" and isn't meant to hurt anyone's feelings. I've certainly used it that way unthinkingly over the years. I know better now, and I've pledged not to do it anymore. Interested in helping to spread the word to end the word in your community? Visit the website to learn more about why the r-word demeans and to take this online pledge:
"I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities."
Bottom line: Language affects our attitudes, and attitudes impact our actions. Be part of the solution. I just joined over 420,000 in taking this pledge online. Will you?