Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If you ask people not to use the word "retard"


Let's say you have a child with disabilities who has cognitive delays, and when people jokingly use the word "retard" to call someone (or themselves) stupid, it bothers you.

Let's say that in honor of Spread The Word To End The Word day, which is today, you decide to do a little project: For a few days you will message people on Twitter who use the word "retard" and let them know the r-word is derogatory to people with disabilities. You don't actually expect the word to disappear anytime soon or that people will instantly chop it out of their vocabularies. But maybe, just maybe, you can raise a little awareness.

You will set up alerts for tweets that contain "retard." And you will find that there are so many mentions of the word—thousands a day—this could be your full-time job. People in the U.S., England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Kuwait say the word. Men, women, teens (lots and lots of teens), people of all races and all spelling abilities.

You will not fault people for their use of the r-word, because the term has become slang. They don't mean to malign people with disabilities. Heck, you used to call annoying situations "retarded" before you understood. You have no problem with the words "stupid" or "dumb" or worse. Sure, call your friends names if you'd like, it's your conversation. But maybe you don't have to toss around the word "retard." Or say even worse things:


When you're sending a message limited to 140 characters, you'd expect that some people won't get what's so wrong. You can't get into explanations of how equating people doing stupid or blockheaded stuff ("I'm a retard for forgetting my wallet!") with people who have intellectual disabilities insults them, and how it perpetuates stereotypes.

You'd expect most people to ignore you, which they do. You'd expect some to be defensive, as the very act of tweeting at them is confrontational, even though you try to keep your tweets even-handed: Hi. Mom of kid with disabilities here. The word "retard" is demeaning. But still, you will surprised by how people dig in their heels:


Someone whose bio reads "My words make a difference in this world" will curse you out:


Some guy will use a phrase that you have never heard before:


And when you go on Urban Dictionary, look up "photo wrecker" and read the description—"A retarded or disabled person"—you will sob. Because you're furious and you're dejected. And because for the first time in your life, you fear how people may one day treat your son when you are not around to protect him. You will feel sorry you started this project. But you will not be able to stop.

Those alerts for "retard" will keep popping up. Forty six alerts, 373 alerts, 1452 when you wake up one morning. And you will keep tweeting: Hi. Mom of kid with disabilities here. Would u help end the use of the word "retard"? It hurts. http://www.r-word.org

Some people will use rationale...


...and some will laugh at you.


But some will inspire you to keep going:


And you will get a few apologies and acknowledgments, and hope your message sticks.




And then, you will read yet another tweet: Don't worry, I won't hold your incredible stupidity against you. Still love you bro. #retard.

You will tweet him and point out that the word is demeaning to people with disabilities.

And he will tweet:

And you will not give up:


He won't give up either:

And finally, you will say:


And then:


And you will feel a little bit of hope.

The day you are done, you will get an email from one Lars who tells you that last week his organization launched The Social Challenge. Through that site, you can anonymously "challenge" Twitter r-word users. But then, you will feel proud that you did this on your own. For all the times you felt sick to your stomach to see a string of smiling faces jokingly calling people "retard," for all the nasty responses you got and for all the non-responses, you will know that even if you've changed a few people's minds, your efforts will have been worth it.

But you will not be able to stop looking.

240 comments:

  1. thank you!
    I have been distracted with family stuff, but I will be sure to post something.
    I have a few times already
    http://adventuresinjuggling.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/a-word-i-hate/
    and I don't hesitate to say something when I hear that word in my son's presence. He is now very aware and hurt by it but he still struggles with how to react or respond so I feel very strongly about being his voice and the voice of so many other amazing people out there. It does have an affect. You are having an affect, I am, so are so many. For now we are a still small voice but we are a strong one and we must continue to be so.
    Thank you again!

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  2. I've never thought to do this on Twitter, but I am the person who will stop conversations in their tracks to calmy, nicely ask "please don't use that word like that. It's offensive."
    I do it to friends, colleagues, strangers at the coffee shop. Maybe one person at a time - online and off - we'll finally see a change start to happen.
    Hugs to you brave mama!

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  3. Wow! Thanks for sharing!!! This really touched me!

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  4. Hi Ellen,

    Long time lurker here! Love all of your posts - and have been silently applauding all of your efforts. This post has really touched me, and I pledge to stop using the r-word, starting now.

    I hope this helps. :D

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  5. If I twittered, I would do this with you. Meanwhile, I will blog it and facebook it.
    As much as I enjoyed and actually loved the movie The Hangover - it did SO much damage in perpetuating the use of the word. It seemed to make it even funnier to those who already found it appropriate to laugh at.
    At my work - Retard and Gay are used so frequently that I am having to stop kids at least every other sentence to say they gotta change their language or leave.

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  6. Thanks, all. I am too wired to sleep tonight, still thinking about this. I hope today makes a real difference in people's awareness.

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  7. photo wreckers my butt... our boys are some of the cutest out there, if i do say so myself :).

    thanks for all you do to raise awareness on so many levels. love this blog.

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  8. Great post as always Ellen. Really appreciate this one - you are not the only one who has encountered resistance when asking people to change their language. I've posted about it over at my blog too! Thanks for raising awareness.

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  9. Some people are just assholes.

    Sorry to be so straightforward, but that's just a fact.

    They don't just make fun of "retards," they say things like "That's so GAY" or say the word
    "special" in a drawn out sing-song.

    Photo wreckers....that's a new one to me. The person who coined that term? An ASSHOLE.

    I admire your perseverence, truly I do. Some people are just born mean and nasty, and I don't know if anything will change 'em. You've got guts to try. Don't take it personally if you don't get through to all of 'em, though--you just can't fix stupid.

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  10. I'm taking this a little far because there is a larger picture here:
    As the father of a son who has no measurable intelligence I could take offence at the word 'retard', but I don't.
    Retarded individuals are retarded or whatever politically correct word someone wishes to use. Of course it is the connotation that to call a person such, who is not retarded, that seems to be the problem. Why? Have you ever said to someone, "are you blind?!". Isn't that demeaning to people without sight because it doesn't give due consideration to the harsh reality a non-sighted person has to deal with?
    "That's lame", is another example. I don't believe that since it is in common usage it is OK to use such phrases but I think it is OK to use when the context is such that the usage of the word 'retarded' is not going to influence the way a person behaves toward an actually mentally compromised person.
    I get your point that if such a word is bandied about without consideration for social oppression of the group of people the word originated from, but that is not its intention.
    Calling attention to the social plight of our interest group, our compromised children, is only natural. This just seems like a particularly ineffective way to go about it, but to each his own.
    Certain phrases are used innocuously in society ("are you deaf?!") without any connection the group. That won't change.

    Neither will the ignorance and ignoring of socially malrepresented compromised individuals until we accept that the vast freedoms of choice long fought for in society, and achieved, bring with it a responsibility to give proper care and thus establish true dignity for children who have every right to be part of humanity. It is not my intention to offend anyone with this view.

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  11. With Phoenix on this one... hope you don't mind, I linked this post via my Facebook status today. Thanks!

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  12. I am saddened that people still use the "R" word, and yet not surprised?

    I think what you are doing is incredible, there's nothing wrong with opening people's eyes to their insensitivity, or at the very least, their lack of tactfulness.

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  13. Ellen, you are my hero. More importantly, you are and will be Max's. XOXO

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  14. I don't use twitter, so I can't help spread the word that way. But thank you for your determination and for speaking up for our kids!!

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  15. It's so easy for people to respond negatively hiding behind the anonomity of the internet, though more than likely they would never speak that way to your face. Ugh! Keep up the good fght. You're very brave!!

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  16. Re Eric's comment. I've struggled with this because the R word did start off as a medical definition - meaning the same thing learning disabilities or learning delays does now. The "delay" being key. Someone (can't recall who right now) posted about a piano lesson with the musical term "ritardando" - to slow down. The word's --origins-- were not malicious. My kid will take longer to learn things. Simple, right?

    But... language DOES evolve and when the playground adopted the words, because they define something deviating from the norm, and kids turned them into slingshots [well, grown ups too] - when it morphed from medical term into insult, it became our responsibility as adults to keep ahead of the crush.

    I think the most effective campaign out there is the poster with "you are such a R___, said the N___ to the F___". The latter two options used to be used in "polite" society too. Times change.

    Eventually "learning disabilities" might fade from use too. Though it's a lot harder to spit 7 syllables out with a sneer.

    In the meantime, I have a line at the ready: Actually it's "developmental delays". And my daughter IS delayed...but at least she's not an a____.

    [Too much? Little too angry? Probably. Haven't pulled it out yet...]

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  17. you are great. I am crying at this post. your strength is admirable. You are my hero.
    kct

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  18. Wicked! Absolutely love this, appreciate how difficult it was, adore your even-handed pursuit of the point. Whenever I am stuck in a lift/trapped in the desert beside the possibly fixable plane/searing inside and wanting to hit some clown instead of use rationale and logic, I will think of this post and want you with me. :)

    And sorry, clowns. I didn't mean you. I meant those other clowns.

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  19. Thank you for this post!! I am a mother of child of a child with Autism and MR and appreciate people like you trying to make a difference!

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  20. Also, to Eric in the comments above, I've thought long and hard about this. It boils down to a simple fact for me at any rate. People who actually are retarded in the usually applied sense of the word (I could argue that we all are, depending on the criteria applied, but that's another day's work) are NOT going to be equipped to defend themselves against the hurt that the word causes. A racial slur, a cheap comment about size or any of the blind/lame etc you can mention do not put the victims at the same disadvantage. They can at least play on a somewhat more level playing field.

    I don't mean to drag anyone off this site and this fabulous post, but I've written about it more personally here if you'd like another take.

    http://downsdad.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/on-the-use-and-power-of-the-word-retard/

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  21. Stephanie PinksterMarch 2, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Love seeing all these Mama Bear claws come out when it comes to social appropriateness!!! I've been the beginning of some interesting conversations on FB for defending the absurdity of this word. In my opinion, it's no different than using the "N" word, it's just that some of our kids don't have the ability to punch the person in the face for using it!! :-). Kuddos to you Ellen for this post. I thought I was the only one offended by the word!!

    Here's to all of us Mamas and taking a stance.....let's make people aware!!

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  22. Kudos & rock on! Max is a lucky child, and you are a beautiful person.

    ~ Tucker's mom

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  23. hello, see our mission to lars blog about my brother with fragile x. i've ranted about this, and also people who confuse, purposely, mental illness and mental disability, or learning disability as we prefer to call it in the UK now. smile on. nice blog, kate

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  24. First time here after seeing it on twitter and i have sobbed! my son (12) was put into the referral room at his comprehensive a few weeks back for calling kids 'retards'. i was appalled at his use of the word but equally appalled at the schools reaction because my son has aspergers and was repeating what other kids have been calling him since september :( he hadn't wanted us to know and he thought it was a swear word and knew people said it to him because they didn't like him. :(

    the school have said they are helpless to stop people using the word unless a staff member specifically hears them saying it. it didn't help my son or the whole issue by locking him away for the day!

    oh dear..i feel a rant coming on!
    well done for bringing it to peoples minds...xxx

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  25. That must have been a brutal experience, the barrage of tweets overwhelming. Good for you. Take heart, even some of the ones who defended themselves to you will look back one day when the "get it" and remember that you pointed this out to them. And they'll feel a little pang of regret for not paying enough attention.

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  26. AMEN! Thanks, I will admit, growing up i used the word but I was young, didn't understand it until I started working with kids with special needs. I see each of the kids I have ever worked with and those that need it need to grow up. I grew up in a time when the word, 'gay' was used to discribe something and if you can't (esp as a parent) see how deamaning it is, you are a sad person. Thanks for this post. :)

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  27. For the past 8 years we have slowly but surely chipped away at the rampant use of this word in our social circle and opened many eyes to the fact that the "r" word is not benign. Rather, it is hurtful and awful.
    Thanks for your post and for fighting the battle!

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  28. Amazing. I have guts and mama bear claws, but I do believe you have the mack daddy of all cajones! Thank you.

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  29. People can argue semantics and which words matter and which don't, but the important thing here is that you've ruined it for those people. They can say they don't care and that they'll continue to offend all they want, but now there's a tiny voice (yours) in their heads that will pop up, unbidden, whenever they use that word. And that's got to take a lot of the fun out of it, don't you think?

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  30. Wonderful post, as others have said, Max has a great hero in you. My aunt is a special education teacher whose students have always been severely mentally and physically challenged. Growing up, we got in *big* trouble if we used the R word.

    As a mom, it is not a word that is allowed to be used in our home or by my son. It's also something I've had to work with my husband on. As with most people, he only used it as slang, never meaning anything "bad" by it. It's eye opening when you hear wonderful people using it as an every day word.

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  31. It isn't all hopeless for the future, This is a speech my daughter chose the topic of and wrote and gave in front of her 6th grade class a couple weeks back:

    Discrimination of people with Down's Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities
    By: Kendra
    Discrimination of any person is wrong. We have fought for years to stop discrimination of sex, race, or religion but it is still very common against people with Intellectual Disabilities. I will mostly be speaking about Down's Syndrome otherwise known as Trisomy 21. Trisomy 21 occurs when instead of inheriting 2 of the 21st chromosomes something goes wrong and 3 of that chromosome are created. Does this extra chromosome really warrant the misguided way of treating people so many, even in our school, are guilty?
    I have a 9 year old brother with Down's. I worry daily about how he will be treated as he gets older. I hear the words "retard" and "retarded" thrown around every day in the halls and no one seems to see how offensive this word truly is. People laugh, point, and make fun of the kids in our school with Down's and other disabilities. They curse at them and call them names. This happens with strangers in stores and restaurants too. They may point, stare or laugh. Some even just ignore my brother when he is being friendly and says hello. How does some random defect during conception mean a person doesn't deserve to be treated like everyone else? People with disabilities are the same as everyone else they just face challenges we are fortunate enough not to have to face ourselves and should be commended instead of condemned.
    Recently President Obama made it a law that "retarded" is no longer an acceptable term. This law is known as Rosa's Law and is named for a little girl "Rosa" with Down's whose family wants to ensure one day this little girl and other children like her don't have to hear such a offensive term just casually thrown around. They want to bring awareness of how hurtful this term can be to the disabled and their families. I hope awareness is raised and more people spread the word to end the word and possibly the discrimination too. That one day my little brother and every other child with a disability are treated as just that, any other child. Disability or not that is what they are. Someone’s son, brother, daughter, or sister and they are entitled to the same treatment as everyone else. I hope this speech can help raise that awareness and help people see how even the little things could be hurting someone they know.

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  32. Thanks for the reminder! I'm so glad this campaign has it's own day now! Keep up the good fight!

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  33. I don't know the exact details of how to do so myself but I believe you should be able to set up a bot to send out the initial "Hi, mom of..." tweets - then you can just concentrate on the replies.

    Just a thought to save you time

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  34. Have just had your link retweeted. Over 70 retweets in an hour, and also a Top Tweet! Quality stuff, Ellen. Well done.

    http://yfrog.com/h2u5np

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  35. Wow. Thanks for this post. As always I end up somehow crying while reading your words. I certainly try not to use the "r" word, but now will always think differently about using that word if I accidentally EVER do so again. And I will say something to others too. Thank you for your inspiration. xoxo

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  36. I don't ask...I give them a look that let's them know, that is totally out of line. That word is up there on our family list of word not to say...higher than the "big F."

    Thank you for writing this blog. I will definitely encourage others to read it.

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  37. Thank you for another great post on this issue Ellen.

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  38. I know I have stopped using the R word and without much of a fight, sad there's so much ignorance in this world but happy there are so many of us willing to speak up and change hearts.
    xo

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  39. nice post I'm sorry there where so many insensitive reply's. In Netherland it is common to use the word Kanker as a swearword. having my mother dying of cancer and still seeing my family use it as a swearword hurts so I can kinda understand.

    here's to people everywhere realising that the words they use to curse usually have a deeper meaning meant to humiliate a certain group of people.

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  40. Great post! I'm sharing this for you! I will fully admit to using that word as a teen and early into my college years. But have since swore it off. Hopefully some of those many many teens who currently use it will soon see the light. I commend your mission!

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  41. have you got in touch with furniture manufacturers to get them to change the name of their fire retardant fabrics?

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  42. Well done you for trying to change the world! One tweet at a time is the way to go. Keep up the good work!

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  43. Many hugs to you.

    I don't know how you kept your cool engaging with lowlifes on Twitter. This was a very moving post, mama.

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  44. What a complete waste of time..

    There's no such thing as offensive, it's arbitrary! You can merely take offence.. If you find something offensive, so what, it doesn't hurt!

    It's used as a slang word..

    Someone else mentioned stereotypes, I don't get the problem with stereotypes, they are important in our modern lives and the crux of comedy.

    Here's a similar case for the thought police to ponder, the use of the term 'gay' as meaning cr*p: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/jun/07/bbc.gayrights

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  45. I am spreading the word to end the word. Thank you for posting this.

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  46. I really liked this post. You'd think being the mother of an autistic child would make me more sensitive and aware of these issues, but I'm pretty sure I've still been using and perpetuating this kind of ignorant language in casual (adult) conversations with friends or whoever. I'm not a hard one to convince on this matter, I feel quite stupid for having fallen into that language trap. Another person said in the comments that whoever coined the term "photowrecker" is a true a____. I have to agree, plus stupid too because our kids are some of the cutest!! So open, innocent and honest, it really comes out in the pictures!

    I also really liked this quote "In the meantime, I have a line at the ready: Actually it's "developmental delays". And my daughter IS delayed...but at least she's not an a____. " And would like to thank the person that shared this thought. I will be pirating the phrase and using it when appropriate.

    Thank you all

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  47. First time reader here... Thank you for posting on this topic. I just had a recent run-in with a relative over the use of the "r" word and was feeling so angry that ppl have been using the word so freely and without a second thought as to how hurtful it is. I commend you on your actions on twitter. I wish I was as brave as you. Very inspiring :)

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  48. I didn't mean to publish my comment as anonymous. It was a skip of the thumb ;)

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  49. This past week has been so crazy with injuries, sicknesses, etc. that I completely forgot yesterday was the End the R-word Day.



    Thank you so much for your words, your tweets, and everything you do for children like ours.

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  50. Tommy & Emma's MomMarch 2, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    You brought me to tears. Your son is a lucky little boy to have such a courageous mom. Stay strong. You are making a difference. Truly.

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  51. I'm so happy that i'm not alone about the R word. I am a mother of a gifted child. And I boil over when I hear people use it so freely. Thank you
    C&N

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  52. This is wonderful, for those it does not reach out and grab their heart I am sad. I am one that used that word a lot until a friend of mine with two beautiful special needs children brought up the cruelty of the word. I quit cold turkey, and have asked others to do the same, I have gotten arguments and stupid answers but I believe with all my heart that we can slowly but surely make this word die out.

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  53. you're my hero. tears here, and hope.

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  54. I'm charmed and awed by your methodic, calm campaign. It's really something.

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  55. Love, just sending you love.

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  56. How do we, as a society, decide which words matter and which don't?
    I suppose it's decided by people who have the courage to speak out and change minds.
    Thank you for speaking.

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  57. You are an awesome mom. Best of luck in your efforts. Here's hoping for some change!

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  58. You are just awesome. Thank you for conducting this experiment. And for staying with it, despite how painful it became.

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  59. You are brave and amazing. Don't ever stop.

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  60. Your post was shared (by Schmutzie) on facebook, and I left this comment there.

    I read the post, and the part where she sobbed because she wondered how some of those people might treat her son when she's not around to protect him made me want to share this:

    Some of the responses she got were likely not because the person truly has a lack of care or hate for people with disabilities, but because they got 'caught' and are/were embarrassed. I've learned that sometimes people who are embarrassed at being 'caught' at something will rail against the person who caught them... kind of a 'shoot the messenger' thing rather than a real disdain for the disabled that would be worrisome. That's not to say there aren't others who are really just awful people out there... but I hope that thought can help her feel just a tiny bit more assured that the whole world will not hate her son.

    Fracas

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  61. you are amazing and brave and full of love. posting this amazing piece on FB and twitter.

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  62. Growing up with downs family members I could see the hurt in my families eyes and feel it in my own heart as people would use this term and other derogatory terms to describe the people we loved. Now as an adult with an adopted daughter with alcohol fetal syndrome it still hurts. But in some ways my heart breaks more now. She understands and if it is focused at her or others, her heartaches she tries hard to understand why people are mean but there is only so much we can do. We try to explain the ignorance of others but all these children want is to be is loved and cared for. Why can’t others just either stay away or have that understanding and love for them. I’m not asking for world peace just peace for a group of beautiful spirits that don’t deserve the world they have been placed in. They are too good for it.

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  63. I re-posted this on Facebook too. It also brought to mind the Buddhist precept "Right Speech." Here's a link to an article (I'm not a spammer, I swear) that points out that:

    "For many of us, the most difficult part of practicing right speech lies in how we express our sense of humor. Especially here in America, we're used to getting laughs with exaggeration, sarcasm, group stereotypes, and pure silliness -- all classic examples of wrong speech. If people get used to these sorts of careless humor, they stop listening carefully to what we say. In this way, we cheapen our own discourse."

    You can read the rest of the article here, if it interests you:

    http://www.esolibris.com/articles/buddhism/buddhism_speech.php

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  64. Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of supporters. I hope I always speak out against using words like "retard" or "lame" (that represent whole groups of marginalized people) as pejoratives. I get a lot of rolled eyes when I ask for this, but the words we choose are important in ways we will never be touched by (but someone else will).

    It's an uphill battle for families touched by disability, and I hope to always be an ally in it.

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  65. I don't use twitter, but have a cousin who is 23 with special abilities. I have been trying to stop people from using that word for as long as I can remember. I really think alot of times they don't realize that it's offensive and have just gotten into the habit of using it. Hopefully we can all together, make a huge difference.

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  66. Hi I found your blog via fb from another great Mommy. When I was young I lived with by my aunt who worked for a Developmental Center. We commonly had residents in our home for lunch or holidays. She raised me to say "person with mental retardation" if there was ever a reason to speak of someone other than them by name or to a third party who would not be so friendly. But my question is,Is that term okay? I have child whose classmate who has an assistant and some other children have been known to be rude, I have always stopped them if they say the R word to each other but if anything else was to be said other than "John" am I ok with using my term with other 8-10 year olds to explain why he may need a little help sometimes? I know that real answer to that question is most likely up to him or his mother.But you guys/gals seem like a good group to get some input from.

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  67. Keep it up. Don't get discouraged. I've been teaching my kids not to use that word and one of my proudest moments was when one had a friend over and the friend used that word. Listening to my child explain why we don't use that word in our home and hear the friend say "Oh, I never thought of it that way, I won't say that anymore." For each person that gets it, they will pass on the message to others. For some of those who laughed or mocked you, maybe it will take hearing it again from someone close to them before they get it, eventually they will though.

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  68. I had a sister who had Down Syndrome. People would call her a "retard" all the time, laugh at her, stare at her, and point. She was 8 years older than me and I felt the need to step up. If I saw someone making fun of her I either got in their face about it until they understood what they were doing and stopped, or depending on their size I beat them up! :) I stopped beating kids up after elementary school though. But I continued to stick up for her and if I heard anyone make fun of kids with disabilities while I was at school I let them have it. I felt it was my job to protect her from these horrible people who thought it was OK to make fun of her and other kids with disabilities. I even yelled at a couple men at Walmart, they were standing outside trying to get money from everyone. They were wearing signs that said "Help the Retards".. My blood boiled. But you can't change everyone, and can't always be there to protect your loved one from those people. And because people think it's ok to make fun of them, push them around, take advantage of them, things happen that shouldn't. My sister was taken advantage of by guys at her work. And because of them..she is deceased. I won't say how she passed as it is just horrendous. But everyone needs to stick together and get our point across about the R word. From my experience, the people who have a disability are much smarter than those who make fun of them.

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  69. Wow. I'm not sure I have any words. I think I'm more in shock.

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  70. But the real problem is not the word "retard", which, by the way, means "to make slow/delay" and existed well before any medical expert decided to use it to label individuals whom they would otherwise classify as not "normal".

    The problem at the heart of this matter is calling people names in general. Launching a campaign to get people to stop using one or a few words is only going to raise ire. You might reach a few, but there are plenty of intellectuals out there that will fight you tooth and nail. Perhaps you should approach this by asking people to stop calling each other names, period.

    I've read through most of the comments here and one mentioned that calling someone deaf or blind is okay because they are mentally developed enough to respond reciprocally. But the truth of the matter is that no child is equipped with the confidence and knowledge to handle any insult well. I was not mentally or developmentally challenged, but it still destroyed my 10 year old self esteem when people called me "midget" for being just a little shorter than them.

    So while I applaud your efforts and, as a mother, completely understand your need to make the world a better place for your son, the real fight is to get human beings to be kind to one another.

    It is not the word that causes problems. It is the intent behind it. Just like nerd and geek used to be tossed around to insult, but now that it has been reclaimed, as it were, nerds and geeks take pride in it. I'm not saying this needs to be done with every word. It is the intent to cause harm with that word, whatever it may be, that needs to be done away with.

    Raise your children to be loving, kind individuals and teach them not to call each other names. Ask the adults you love and care for not to call other adults names. Get everyone you know to join in on this.

    This will have more affect on the world than trying to reach some anon on Twitter.

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  71. You are making a difference.

    Because of people like you & Tanis I have removed this word from my vocabulary and try hard to discourage others from using it as well.

    Much love to you mama!!

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  72. You know the old saying, if you only reach one person? Well, you've reached more than a few, I am sure of it.
    Great post. Thanks for your work on this!

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  73. Posted this to my facebook today. It is amazing how many people use this word and use it all the time. I have a friend who has a child with Autism and STILL uses the R word. How sad :(

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  74. I'm pleased that you preserved in your Twitter experiment. I'm sorry that it caused you so much pain along the way.

    You are an inspiration.

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  75. Thank you so much for your bravery and your insights. After my son was born with Down syndrome (11 years ago) I became very aware of it, and of the importance of using "people first" language. It isn't just semantics, it's an attitude. Really, I think no one but a parent of a child with special needs knows how much that word can hurt (luckily we have other wonderful compensations!)

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  76. I have a brother with Downs Syndrome. I spent my childhood defending him -- physically, verbally, in every way and from every direction you can imagine. What I learned over decades of doing this is that after a certain point he became more than capable of defending himself. Words like "retard" do not bother him in the slightest. They don't bother me, anymore, either. We are who we are, and we are happy with our strengths. I have to go along with Nick: adding syllables to a label ("retarded" becoming "developmentally disabled") doesn't change the reality of the situation. ABSOLUTELY be considerate of others when you can. ABSOLUTELY defend your loved ones regardless of the deck they were dealt. But focusing on a single word will only earn you heartache in the long run, and the only proven methods of removing the power from aggressive or "hate" speech is to make it your own ("queer," "n!gger," etc.). That's my take on the issue.

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  77. Oh Ellen (((hugs))) -->that's all my emotions can handle right now.

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  78. You are a hero, Ellen. You're doing great things for your son, for your family, for the world.

    Keep it up.

    xoxo

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  79. Ellen:

    I had a little sister with cerebral palsy. She died when I was eight, she was six. Whenever I hear the R word, her sweet little face comes to my mind and I just want to scream.

    I actually had an argument with a woman last week about the use of the word. It has been bothering me that I didn't say more to her, but she's my friend's live in girlfriend and I was really just too shocked to say any more than I did. I wrote about it today and linked back here for the rest of the ignorance that we are subjected to.

    Still hard to believe people think it's okay to say that.

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  80. What dedication you have for educating the ill-informed! I wish you luck on your mission and give you a lot of credit...racial slurs can get people fired, expelled from school, or worse, how is using the "R" word any different these days? People should know better!

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  81. The photo wrecker comment made me physically ill, but then I thought of your Photo Carnival blog from months ago and all of the beautiful photos of all of our kiddos.

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  82. Thanks for having the guts to do what you did. Reading your blog brought tears to my eyes. My son who happens to have a cognitive disability is almost 21 years old, but seeing the ignorance that is still out there just makes me sick. We have come so far, but yet, we still have so very far to go.

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  83. Thank you, thank you! I stumbled across your blog from a link an old grad school friend posted on FB. I just wanted to applaud you and give encouragement to counteract all of the negativity and ignorance you are running into. Please continue to raise awareness and educate others. We need more people like you out there!

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  84. I come here by way of Red Neck Mommy. I just wanted to let you know your boy is beautiful. Me and mine won't be using that word anymore.

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  85. Well said! I wish there were more people who would take a stand against the language that used about people with disabilities.

    Lucia - Michigan

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  86. don't give up. even with the ugly responses, you've planted a seed... and the most beautiful flowers grow from seeds. ((hugs)) and thank you for sharing.

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  87. Ellen,

    Well said & excellent post. I just tweeted it.

    I can relate to this on a more remote level because my dad came out of the closet when I was 15. So when I hear people say things like, "That's so gay," or "You're such a fag," I cringe inwardly. I know it doesn't begin to compare with your struggle, but I can imagine.

    Hugs to you!

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  88. I don't think I would have had it in me to take on that campaign and actually read all of those messages.

    I'm proud of you Ellen! xo

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  89. A couple of years ago a friend heard me use the "r" word casually and asked me to stop. Until I heard her point of view I hadn't thought about it much. As of that day I never, ever say it. A little trick if it's part of your lexicon...when you catch yourself, replace it with "RIDICULOUS!" It's pretty fitting, actually!

    We're all works in progress and open dialogue with friends only makes us better people!

    Proud of you, Ellen!

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  90. Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou! I have a brother will down syndrome and autism and I have had to go through life sticking up for him and even who I thought were my 'friends' would use this word about him and I'd have to say stop. I hate how every movie that comes out these days uses the word retard it is disgusting.

    Who knew how thick our society can be!! I am only 20 years old and having to put up with it for my short lifetime is a struggle. Having to hang around with my generation they use the word excessively which makes me face it everyday . I admire you so much for standing up to this issue. You are a great mother and carer. I just wish everyone wouldnt be so thick and a bit more considerate of other people who have to face the hardship of having someone with a disability.

    Thankyou so much.

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  91. Our family recently lost a close friend over her refusal to stop using this word, stop using references to those with physical and mental disabilities as jokes, and to apologize to us for doing so. It was embarrassing (how could we have been friends with such an awful person?) and it was enlightening as well as the exchange took place over facebook and the sheer amount of people who know us, see our daugher (who has CP) and yet think nothing of using a word meant only to hurt here was staggering. I will not let that word go by without challenge, at this day and age it is inappropriate and society needs to grow and get rid of this type of speech.

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  92. I have been following the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign for a while, and I am a regular reader of your blog. I linked this blog post in two blogs I have about my 21-month old daughter who has spina bifida.

    I commend you on your bravery with the twitter project. I can only imagine the hateful and offensive replies you received, and how heartbreaking that was. But even changing one person, making one person think twice, starts the wheels of progress.

    I applaud you, and support your efforts. You have many people standing on your side. People who will not tolerate perpetuating hate, oppression, and demeaning those with disabilities.

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  93. This post was amazing. I read this right after reading a video post on another blog I follow called Stumbo Family Story. It was there that I watched this inspiring video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gXg5Q0dI6nM

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  94. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog - I recently had my head nearly cut off from those who do not understand how much the R word hurts, especially when it has been used against them and their child. This is exactly how I feel you could not have said it better. Amee

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  95. Thank you. You have no idea how many times I've been told to get over it or that no one was directing it to a special needs person so what's the big deal? Or "words only have power to hurt you if you let them, quit being so sensitive". Ugh. I turned on the tv yesterday to see a commercial of Wanda Sykes chastising teenage boys for saying "That's so gay". And I thought maybe, just maybe if we work hard enough to raise awareness about the "R" word, one day maybe it will be just as recognized as being derogatory, offensive and hurtful.

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  96. You're awesome. I wrote about you at Work It, Mom today. I struggle with the R-word, because my son *is* retarded. But the way we use the word has evolved. I am glad that you are inviting compassion and awareness.

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  97. from one parent of a special needs child to another: Nicely done.

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  98. What a great article, Ellen, and thank you on behalf of those of us who are too afraid of the feelings this would conjure for us. I've been involved in 2 web debates about the word and it still haunts me, the ignorance. All I can think is what comes around goes around. I hope.
    I recently had to ask one of our nurses to stop throwing the word around, and to hope she wasn't letting her kids talk like that. She was shocked that I would equate the word with my boys! (yes, a nurse)
    Love Kerry

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  99. When I read that photo wrecker tweet I got ill and could feel my blood pressure rising. I would have responded with all matter of anger and bad words, I'm sure. You are more level-headed than I. Thank you for this beautiful post. It's gotten me thinking about what I can say to those friends and family members who use the R word.

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  100. Thank you for your courage. People change. The world changes.

    Ps. This is what frightens me, too: "And because for the first time in your life, you fear how people may one day treat your son when you are not around to protect him." But your work helps.

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  101. I'm so impressed by you for embarking on this project. I don't know that I could have done it. You're my hero today. (And tomorrow. And quite possibly the next day.) Thank you.

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  102. Thank you for your post. I will work harder to get this word out of my vocabulary. It's long overdue, and a nasty habit. So, well done. In gratitude, Susan

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  103. My only real take is that as much as we want to fight, and we all do fight it...it's a losing battle with so many people only in the sense that this is so generational. Not unlike words that used to be commonplace but are fading like nigger or faggot. I remember older guys using both of those words a TON when I was a kid.

    I rarely hear them ANYWHERE anymore.

    The sad fact is that there are many, MANY very stupid people out there. And sadly...we can tweet them, e-mail them and blog to them and do whatever we can to them and the result will always be the same.

    They won't change. They'll be too angry to. They won't KNOW the anger is self-directed because, as I said, they don't have the intelligence or the self-actualization...but the anger will be there.

    Will we still try. Yeah...what else is there really?

    It takes a village to kick the shit out of the village idiots.

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  104. What a brave lady you are. Thank you.

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  105. Great post. I linked back to you at the end of my post for today.

    http://niederfamily.blogspot.com/2011/03/word-retarded-is-not-cool.html

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  106. beautiful. thank you for doing this. i don't have any family or friends with intellectual disabilities but my brother did struggle as a child. he's got some "social oddities" and has been picked on for them. i appreciate your efforts. squeezes!

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  107. Mama, what a beautiful ode to your son. While I don't use this word, I appreciate the reminder that words are powerful and should be selected with care.

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  108. I'm curious when the word "retard" started coming into play again in our culture. I think it was in the 80s and 90s it was super frowned upon to use that word. Then I started hearing my daughter and her friend using it like it was waaaay back in the day. I'm very discouraged that it's coming back into play. I wish you many blessings on raising the awareness of ONE word!


    ~Mimi

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  109. I remember it being a common put down in school. I may have even used it... truly I'm in my mid 30's and can't actually remember that far back. ;) However, as a mom, I won't ever use that word. I'm sorry it's been such an emotionally challenging project for you. Kudos for standing up for your child (and kids everywhere). :)

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  110. Hi there,

    I feel honored to have found your blog today. I had heard about the R-Word campaign through Dr. Oz before. I didn't realize it was so close and had actually forgotten what it was about.

    My perspective on this is that no one should be belittling anyone with hurtful words. I grew up being called names for other reasons, and I did not like it. I call my kids out on it when I hear them saying negative things.

    I hope that the positive dialog keeps going. We need it so badly. God bless you for having the guts to open up the discussion on this societal concern.

    God bless,

    Rebecca G.

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  111. Wow, that was a tough assignment you took on. On behalf of my son and family, thank you.

    One small thing, though, using "dumb" can be offensive to the deaf community because it associates the deaf with stupidity ("deaf and dumb"). Just thought I would pass it on.

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  112. You literally were able to change my mind in a single post. I started off reading it, thinking "Ugh, it's not like I'm insulting them on purpose!"

    And to make my long journey through my own self-justification short - I ended the post thinking...

    "Really April? Your vacabulary is so limited that you can't choose another word that won't offend people? No matter how you meant it?"

    Thanks :) Will share.

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  113. I found this through a FB post from Parenting Hacks. What a great challenge. Thank you for doing it. Our son (1st grader!!!) just last week repeated the word "retard" that he heard and asked us what it meant. Our reaction was swift. He now knows the "R" word is WORSE than the "F" word in our household. I hope someday that IS how people refer to it - the "R" word, so much so that future schools try to ban books that have the word in it. Hugs.

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  114. God bless you, Ellen. You're awesome.

    Thank you,
    Josh's Mom
    AKA Barbara Frank

    P.S. Jenna, I'm so very sorry about your sister.

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  115. Your post pretty much encompasses my experience, these 11 years since I stopped using it. I'm always amazed by the vitriol that some return, some from narcissism, some plainly ignorant, even a few from pain far greater than I could imagine. One, as you've proven, merely needs to embark on the journey to find out. I think that the success rate is ultimately worth the effort, but as you've pointed out it can be quite a ride.
    I have found much greater success in person than online - that's to be expected as one's physical presence and tone of voice can convey a multi-dimensional experience (sometimes friendly, sometimes downright, er, menacing).
    Thanks for taking a courageous and enlightening stand.

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  116. Wow, I can't believe the nerve of some people. Then again, it is the internet. People hide behind computers and say mean things that they wouldn't have the balls to say out loud. Anyway, thanks for sticking up for others=)

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  117. I told my sister in law that I think it is as bad as the N word and she was not happy, particularly as she is mixed race.

    I do not agree with you about the word dumb though. It comes from describing deaf people as deaf and dumb, because they could neither hear nor speak. Now dumb means stupid, it the same way as the R word does.

    I have also noticed special being used in the same way. Many teenagers and young adults use "special" as an insult. It is nit OK to insult someone for being black, but it is somewhat OK to call them trailer trash or a gypo. I think as our language changes any word used to describe a disability/race/difference can become an insult. I think we need to challenge this notion as much as we need to stop the R word being used.

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  118. I've never used the term, my children don't even know what it means - they see people traditionally referred to as "retarded" as developmentally delayed. Seriously, that's the term we use. I say, "Everyone's brain is different, but everyone you see is a human being, just like you."

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  119. I've been overwhelmed by all the support here. The Twitter project was hard on my heart, but these comments lifted me-- although it was sobering to hear from parents and siblings of kids who have been a target of the r-word.

    Really smart observations here. I understand that some people may not take offense to the r-word; I do, as do many other parents. (Oh, and point taken about the word “dumb.”) I have no idea when the word "retard" bounced back. It was around when I was a teen, then it went away, but now it’s made a major comeback, perhaps reinforced by social media, the very avenue we're now using to roadblock it.

    Make no mistake, I know my post and all the others today won’t make a big dent in the problem. But it’s a start…and look at the discussion it’s started.

    More on this tomorrow.

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  120. Words and their meanings change. And please try to remember the old saying about sticks and stones?

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  121. As someone who was with you when you were doing it I have to say you got the strength mama! I love and respect you more for hanging in there even though I could see how it bothered you what those idiots were spewing out.

    I am so proud of you my friend and you continue to amaze me

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  122. Good God it's just a fucking word, and I'm going to use it all I god damn want. Get over it.

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  123. What an amazing post, and project, Ellen!! As I sit here with tears streaming down, you have moved me so much to write my own post tonight.
    Thank you.
    Molly

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  124. Thank you. I have a HUGE problem with this and with the use of "That's so GAY."
    You wouldn't say, "That's so ASIAN." You wouldn't say, "That's so EPILEPTIC." It sounds ridiculous, right? Then why is it okay to say gay or retarded when talking about how stupid something is?

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  125. something happend to me when I posted a link to my blog on the spread the word to end the word site on fb

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  126. This was so powerful.
    Thank you for taking it upon yourself to tweet to those using that word.
    Thank you for continuing when it got tough
    This is inspiring.

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  127. Great post! Great courage. I hope you keep it up.

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  128. The real issue is not the word retarded. The bigger issue is respect, and that is what you should be fighting for, this whole campaign to end the use of the word is like trying to stop a leaking dam with a band-aid. Tolerance and respect for ALL human beings is the only answer. Also, in my opinion, retardation is a medical condition, and the word in our society has become a derogatory term, replaced nowadays with "special needs". I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people use that new term in a negative fashion. Pretty soon people like you will campaign to end use of the special needs term. Clearly, the real problem here is lack of compassion, respect and tolerance.

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  129. Please go to this blog...
    http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/2011/02/redeeming-love.html

    You will cry and be inspired by this amazing story!!

    Great job standing up to putting an end to a demeaning word. Great job!!

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  130. Wow! I'm reposting on my blog (www.motheringautism.blogspot.com) and sending through my social media circuit. Great job (and read)!

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  131. I found your post through a RT on Twitter. It made me cry.

    Your fight reminds me of something I used to do before I met someone who was hurt by it.

    When I was 16 I sometimes used the word Jew as a slur for cheap. And then I met a Jew who asked me to stop because it hurt his feelings. I loved him and I stopped. I felt like an ass, but the fact that he asked me to stop because it hurt was more important than my feelings about being an ass. I'm glad he told me how it made him feel, because at the time I was oblivious.

    It had become a bad habit before he asked me to stop, but I stopped and I never started again.

    Keep up the good fight, because every person counts :)

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  132. First Amendment Rights Say:

    This is retarded. Not using the word will not end discrimination again handicapped people of all forms, and you incorrectly assume it cannot be used as a term of endearment (or in jest) along the lines of a fun n-word that ends not in the usual ending but a.

    Fight the good fight, but I fight for the freedom to use the word retard.

    FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT

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  133. Really great post! You probably won't change the majority of the people, but even changing a few can really make a difference!

    I'm a mother of a girl with high-functioning Asperger's. I have been guilty of using that word, and others (such as spaz). I never used them to be hurtful to a group of people. And I don't think I ever used them to describe anyone other than myself. But I used the words because you forget what they really mean and how hurtful they are. I've been working to stop using them--and putting myself down--even playfully. Words do hurt. I think people do sometimes need reminding the derogatory nature of these expressions.

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  134. Keep up your efforts... if it changes just one person it'll be worth it.

    Although i don't use the r-word, I'm ashamed to say I was pulled up once saying 'spaz' when I had messed something up - ignorantly it had never really occurred to me what I was actually saying... or that it could offend anyone. Boy am I glad the person pulled me up about it! Not only do I not say it anymore but I also pull others up for saying this and the r-word. Sadly a lot of people (me included once upon a time) don't engage ther brains before communicating - but your tweeds would definitely plant the seed to stop and perhaps even develop conversations with their friends/family about the issue.

    Well done xx

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  135. I never thought about how this could affect people. Thanks for being brave enough to let people know how it feels. I won't use this word again.

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  136. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

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  137. I think your doing this openly, not anonymously, will make a very real difference, one person at a time.

    I applaud you for this. Like Jessica R., I stop those who say it in front of me and ask them not to use that word. But I think it's far easier for me to have that conversation with people I know than to take on the very many anonymous folks using it on twitter. I am in awe of you.

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  138. To educate people is a great gift---for you and for the learner. It can also be a painful lesson--on both sides.
    Thank you for doing this project---one person at a time may seem like it will take forever but it is still one person.

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  139. Ellen - thanks for the thought-provoking post. I think your direct outreach to twitterers asking them to stop is very brave, and frankly inspiring.

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  140. As the sibling of an individual with special needs I feel very strongly about this cause and fully support your efforts! I highly suggest that anyone who has a family member with special needs view this heart-warming clip....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b7y9UYt_fM

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  141. I just put a post about this on our FB page. Thank you for sharing.

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  142. It only matters what people say if you care about their opinion. Some people aren't evil, but perhaps too flippant with a subject they have no real connection to - there is no emotional connection to the word, so they see it as "just a word" and ignore the hurt it can cause. Those will be the people that your beautiful tweet and blog post will reach and change. The people that would use the term "photo wrecker" are very aware of the hurt but don't care and won't change unless maybe they experience an emotional connection with someone with a delay first hand. But those are the people you should ignore as their opinion isn't worth your time. Pay attention to the people like me ... who when they see a photo of your son see inspiration, love, accomplishment, beauty. (hugs)

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  143. How awful.. I find it unbelievable that people can say such cruel and insensitive things to a mother who clearly is just trying to make the world a little bit better. Thank you for being a calm, loving voice in the face of ignorance. I used to say
    "I hate that word" when people said it, but over the years, I have learned from the example of people like yourself. If we say "That word is hurtful. There are better words to use - if you think something is silly, say it's silly!" - then people are more apt to respect your wishes.

    Reading this made my day. It also made me tear up in a coffee shop.

    I applaud your bravery. Many blessings to you.

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  144. The R word has gotten changed around and so have others. It's not used to mean slower or slow any more. You are very inspiring. Keep it up!

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  145. I spent my week as a middle school English teacher talking about the negativity of the R-Word. Yesterday I proudly wore my Spread the Word T-Shirt and today my 93 students logged on to take the pledge. Some even went home with the info for their families. One brave 12 year old girl corrected her cheerleading coach yesterday in practice. Today I came home and read your blog and it made me smile from ear to ear. You are a brave mother and an inspiration to us all. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Keep up the twitter fight, it's worth it!

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  146. "Retard" is meaningless outside its purpose to demean. Huge battle in front of you. Best of luck.

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  147. This issue was first brought to my attention by a good friend who had 2 brothers with disabilities. I have been sensitive to the use of the word ever since. I admire you for informing people. I'll bet even some of those who responded negatively will think twice when they say it. :)

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  148. You are one brave mama. Awesome.

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  149. Thank you so much for posting this up! I know what it's like for people to be teased with the r-word, maybe a bit too well. But you made me feel like some people out there actually care and are willing to stand up for the population that may be less willing to stand up for themselves. Please continue your mission as it has inspired me to start my own.

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  150. You are welcome. So many people here are inspiring me!

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  151. As someone who grew up with not one, but two siblings with special needs, I thank you and commend your efforts! It is an exhausting fight against this tiresome, hurtful "slang." Moving to Los Angeles was like diving into a pool of sharks; it feels like EVERYONE uses "retard" in all the wrong ways. Keep up the good work!

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  152. This is an extraordinary post, Ellen. Bravo!

    My sons, brothers to a disabled sibling, recently participated in "No Name Calling Week" at their school by calling attention to the word "retard." You could have heard a pin drop when they did their presentations -- here's the link to my post about it: http://elizabethaquino.blogspot.com/2011/01/no-name-calling-week-part-2-older.html and http://elizabethaquino.blogspot.com/2011/01/no-name-calling-week.html

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  153. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I was brought up taught that "retard" or "retarded" used in some slang or derogatory way was simply inappropriate and rude. Since learning this in early grade school I've followed that lesson. Why use any word that can cause someone to feel hurt? Life's too short. When I hear grown adults use that word ... I can think of one in particular ... it stuns me. I think both, "Did no one ever tell you that's rude?" and "Have you not grown up past elementary school?" To me, it's akin to saying, "oh, that's so gay" ... a juvenile and uncreative way way of speaking that carelessly offends certain groups of people, and by extension, all of us.

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  154. Love it! I support you - great post!!

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  155. You ROCK, Your Blog ROCKS and your Tweets, yep, they rock too! As a mom to two special needs kids I thank you! Keep fighting the fight - I am going to share this on both my blg and facebook. Thank you again.

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  156. Ellen -

    I commend your bravery and your efforts to advocate for the disability community. Thank you for all that you're doing.

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  157. The R-word is on the top of my list of junk words. I, too, correct everyone and anyone that uses this word. Its use is completely unnecessary and needs to, and will be, obsolete.

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  158. I think it is commendable that you would go through all that for your son as well as others out there hurt by that word, even through the mean and hurtful comments. I'm embarrassed to say my husband uses it from time to time without thinking and I have to alert him to the hurtfulness of the word and tell him not to say it. But there are people out there who are willing to see that the word is wrong and hurtful, and stop using it. I pray more and more people wil become aware. God bless.

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  159. Wow. What a great blog. So well written. You did such a great job of capturing the emotional effect of that word and really both sides.

    thank you Love that Max from Love that Alex!

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  160. You've already made a difference Urban dictionary has removed the definition of "photo wrecker". Every little step in the right direction is a good thing.

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  161. Ellen, you amazing, brave, courageous, valiant woman! I applaud you! Bravo! More mothers should have your spirit, your selflessness, and your unconditional love for your child. Yours is a most noble mission. I just want you to know, I have never used that word. When I was a little girl, I saw some bullies using it to torment a much smaller child until he cried. I felt so badly for him, seeing this horrible emotional abuse, that I resolved, at a very early age, that I would never use that word. Keep up the good fight and remember that many people support you. You go, girl, and more power to you!

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  162. As a future teacher I refuse to let any of my students use this word. I try to nicely and rationally explain my reasons for why. Thank you for having the courage to do this on twitter!

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  163. Thank you for sharing your story. I read it on The Mommy Files on SFGate and I loved it. It really made me think about the word "retard" and its negative connotations of and around the meaning of the word. So yes, I will stop using it in the wrong context and will also let others know to not use it in the wrong context. Unless you walk even a few feet in someone else's shoes you never know....

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  164. First I will let you know that I found you by way of Ms. Snuggle Wasteland. Now I will tell you how guilty I am of throwing that word around (mostly about myself) so carelessly. After reading your post, I will certainly catch myself and think of something different to say. I think often times we are immune to certain things, and we literally don't see or hear the damage one simple word can do. I am glad I stopped by. Your fight is a tough one. And I admire you for it.

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  165. Wonderful post!! I heard this word many times growing up about my brother!! Thankfully I don't hear it so much anymore! People should know that word do hurt! Thank you!

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  166. As a former high school English teacher and a current Preschool teacher, I am aware of the power of language and have always tried to make my students and coworkers aware as well. Thank you so much, not only for continuing to take on the unenlightened masses, but for your eloquent words. You've beautifully expressed what so many of us want to do, and some of us do. You give the rest of us courage to do more.

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  167. Thanks for trying to change the world!

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  168. Amazing, Ellen, truly. Thank you from our family!

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  169. As a sister of a special needs kid, I have been trying for years to end the word. What an eye opening post, thank you. My friends don't use it around me, but plenty of others do (i'm a high school freshman) and I can never come up with a good argument to stop them. Best of luck to you and Max!

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  170. The tweeter whose "words make a difference in this world" cursed her out here:
    http://twitter.com/#!/ohdannyboii/status/41277301593354240

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  171. There are indeed far more important things to focus on when it comes to disability than ending the use of such words. I am in a chair myself and often refer to myself as a 'crip' or a 'spastic' in jest, as do friends in the same position. It is my and their choice to do so and does make for a good laugh. I have the right to refer to myself however I like, but that doesn't mean I use the word 'retard'. The world has gone too PC-mad and has lost focus on where the problem really lies. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Do you think that by ending the use of the word 'nigger', African Americans obtained the civil rights they deserved? No, they did much more than that. Words are not the problem here, perhaps a small part of the problem, but not the problem.

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  172. Yes, I do appreciate the effort, but what about *ME*? I have, for years, self-identified as "mildly retarded". I am a retard, plain and simple. No, I really don't care if you like the word, "retard", or not. I don't, and won't, stop using it, just because of you & your little campaign. In fact, as a retard, I look forward to using retard even more. The problem as I see it, isn't the word, it is the thoughts behind the word. And more so, the industry behind the thoughts. Arguing over a word like retard, and trying to limit its' use, is like trying to end air pollution by never saying the word "smog". It is like trying to end the problem of careless trash disposal by ending use of the word, "litter". I don't think your campaign is a good idea at all. I think that it is *RETARDED*. Signed, sincerely, A retard. Yes, I am using my "real" retard name. Bradford Hutchingson. Get over the outrage, bitch. OOOOH!....

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  173. Thank you.

    I have been anti R-word since I was little and digested the R-word's meaning and the fact that my cousin with Down's Syndrome fell into that derogatory term.

    My husband doesn't even understand the depths of my dislike for the word and he worked w/ people with disabilities for years. His mom worked with people with disabilities. Our daughter has autism. It just doesn't seem to cut through him the way it does me.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I have shared it on twitter and facebook (both of my facebook accounts)...I liked it THAT.MUCH.

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  174. I found your post very inspiring. I am a special education teacher who cringes every time I hear the word in public and my friends have learned not to use "the word" in around me. I have cousin with Downs and my experiences with him and my students are ones that I cherish. I am currently in the process of organizing a "Share the Word to End the Word" day in my school, a little late for the national day but every bit helps. I found your Twitter example very interesting and hope to use it in the future to help spread the word. Your blog post was very interesting and helped with my planning fo our event.

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  175. What a wonderful initiative!! And so well expressed! Recently I was involved in a trial for a woman who stole from my mentally disabled brother -- as he was dying of cancer. Would you believe (of course you would) that, in his closing, her defense atty actually said his client would have to be 'retarded' to have done this. 'retarded!', he repeated. I could only hope that someone on the jury loved someone who was mentally disabled.

    When I had the opportunity for a victim impact statement, I made quite the scene at suggesting that the next time he's defending a client accused of stealing from someone with mental disabilities --probably don't want to use the term 'retarded' in her defense.

    She was found guilty on all 10 counts and is now in jail. :0)

    Congratulations on a terrific campaign. If I can help in any way, please let me know.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

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  176. You are brave to take on the hostile anonymous trashing that goes on via the Internet. Way to take a stand! Words have meaning and emotions. I commend you! You are a terrific parent.

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  177. I never really grasped how hurtful the word was until I found the blogging world. It's taken years to remove it from my vocabulary, and I sometimes still slip.

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  178. Thanks for your campaign. I personally find that word deeply distressing and I will not let my son use it, even though he hears it on the playground constantly. I hope your efforts make an impact. I don't tweet, but I'll be forwarding your post to others!

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  179. absolutely fabulous post ... helen keller said: I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

    Your personal action demonstrates that profoundly. Thankyou.

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  180. There's a young actress on "Glee" (tv show) who shared all the hurts she has endured and she is also wanting to end the use of the r word as I do.

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  181. I'm in high school, and it really upsets me when I hear people use the word "retarded" or "gay" in a derogatory manner. I usually ask them not to do that, even though I'm neither, just because of the principle of the thing. Anyways, it makes me angry that people are so stubborn and refuse to make ONE LITTLE CHANGE that doesn't really even take any trouble at all.

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  182. Ellen- stumbled upon your blog and just wanted to commend you for putting up a fight. Most of those people who choose to come back at you are simply ignorant and will never get it. Please don't let them discourage you and know that there are many people out here that have you're back. Honestly, those people that are going to make a stink about removing a single word from their vocabulary need to reconsider what they find important...

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  183. This made me cry. I am a special ed major, and have two special needs cousins, one with CP and one with a seizure disorder that presents as autism. They are two of the most precious things in my life, and it hurts my heart to hear people throw around this word without thinking twice. Thank you for sharing your efforts.

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  184. Wow interesting discussion. Usually I revolt against movements that feel politically correct, but in this case I feel like joining the cause and at least will cease to use the r-word myself.

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  185. I had a conversation with someone just the other day...they poked (gentle) fun at me for asking people not to say certain words and for standing up for my beliefs by not shopping at stores when I feel their corporations have violated human rights...I feel alone with an extinct value system, so THANK YOU, for reminding me there are people in the world who live with love and kindness...Max is so lucky to have you!!

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  186. Kudos to you for your courage to speak up politely. You have a noble motive; however, I think you defeat your purpose.

    I don't know anyone with any amount of delicacy or discretion that actually refers to a disabled or cognitively delayed person as “retarded”; I have never met a parent who would use "retarded" to describe their child’s condition; and you would be offended if someone referred to your beautiful Max as a "retard". Why are you offended when people use this word in a way OTHER than describing someone with a disability? Over time, some words take on new meanings (Who thinks “happy, and carefree” when they hear the word “gay” these days?), and to me the slang use of “retard” is actually a positive change. In using “retard” as slang, and more polite adjectives for disabilities, we are gradually changing the meaning of the word as well as our ideas about disabled people. By protecting the exclusive use of “retard”, you are essentially doing your part to perpetuate and reinforce it as a synonym for disabled and cognitively delayed people.

    Yes, there are times when people say inappropriate, offensive things and we should stand up to them, and there are other times when we need to look inside ourselves and try to understand the cause of our emotional reactions. That you are bothered when people use this word is evidence that for you it IS a definition of someone with special needs. You hear this word and are offended, because you think of your son. This is an association that can be overcome. By choosing not to get offended by it, you weaken its defining power, and I think that is the place to start.

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  187. I've made a mental note to read this post in it's entirety at a later time, but I wanted to say that I understand and support your mission.

    I have never liked the way that people in my age group (late teens, early twenties) use this word so flippantly. Without even going into the deeper implications of the word, I've always thought it SOUNDED irreverent, insensitive, uneducated, and disrespectful. I don't like calling people stupid to begin with, and I always thought this a step beyond. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything, right?

    Stay strong and stick to your guns. There will be be people who stand with you. <3, Jane

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  188. You just made me cry. Thank you so much. If we all do a little it adds up to a lot. There is always something that resonates with each of us, be it race, or the fact we are immigrants or disabilities. In this modern society derogatory words are used so quickly, with no consideration to those who they are spoken to and even less to those they might imply to outside the conversation. In my native language children with disabilities are referred to as the chosen ones. They are viewed as blessed. And for a reason. Thank you for sharing all the reasons your son is special to you and why he has the same amount of impact to this planet as my son or my friends daughter or any child out there.

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  189. Just wanted to say that I completely agree with you & love what you are doing. Also, Max is a complete doll!!! What a cutie!!! Hope y'all are having a good day :)

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  190. Awesome post! I have a cousin who is a sweet and precious person who happens to be severely disabled. This issue is close to my heart as well. Thank you for bringing up this important issue!

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  191. Ellen, you are the best! Let's kill the r-word, I'm with you. It's offensive and cruel and with your campaign to educate others about it, it will one day only say volumes about the character of those who still use it. You are making the world a kinder and more enlightened place for Max and everyone else in it. You are a uniquely gifted and talented advocate, we are so lucky to have you!!!!

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  192. Hi, Max's Mom! It's Ty, again!

    I really liked how you used real life tweets to show this happens all the time. That's awesome.

    Great post!

    Here's a link to my blog post for Spread the Word to End the Word Day, "Have You Ever...Used the "R"-Word?"

    http://tysadventures.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/have-you-ever-used-the-r-word/

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Thanks for sharing!