Today's guest blogger/guest Upcyclist is a best friend and colleague, Dr. I. I've been begging Dr. I to join me on Upcycled Education and she finally took me up on it. Dr. I is clever, humorous and calls it like she sees it. My kind of person.
Take it away, Dr. I.
The tides are changing, and I’m thrilled. The use of the “r-word” has been a thorn in my side for over ten years. I’m an educator who teaches about special education but I also have a family member who has an intellectual disability. My Uncle Bob, who just turned 58, was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain). At the time of his birth, there was a movement afoot in the United States to close institutions for those with intellectual disabilities so that these individuals could remain with their families and better integrate into society. A very progressive idea for the time; however, I wish the term “mentally retarded” would have been shut down along with the institutions.
What started as clinical term, the term “mentally retarded” and its pejorative cousin “retard” have been used to degrade people with intellectual disabilities. What is even more abhorrent, in my humble opinion, is the use of the r-word as slang. I can’t tell you how many well-educated friends and family members of mine still use this word, often to refer to something silly they did. I take every chance I can to correct them (even in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner!). When I teach a college course on special education, I begin the first day by writing the r-word on the board in a large circle. I then cross it out with a red marker and an excessive amount of vehemence! I hope I’ve made an impression.
What has made a significant impression is the passage of Rosa’s Law (S.2781), signed into federal law by President Obama on October 5, 2010. The law removes the terms “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” from federal health, education, and labor policies and replaces them with the term “individual with an intellectual disability” or “intellectual disability”. This change in terms evokes the kind of change in thinking we need. Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, Dr. Timothy P. Shriver remarked: “Respect, value, and dignity – everyone deserves to be treated this way, including people with intellectual disabilities.”
|Image from Daylife; Text by Jen|
Rosa’s Law was initiated in 2009 by a family in Maryland who has four children one of whom, Rosa, has Down syndrome. Rosa’s mother Nina was discouraged to find that Rosa’s school referred to her as retarded (a term that was not allowed in their home). Nina joined forces with other parents and her state delegate to first introduce the bill to the Maryland General Assembly. A hearing was held to discuss the implications of changing the term. Several people gave testimony, but the most significant words came from Rosa’s 11-year-old brother when he said, “What you call people is how you treat them.”
I urge you to put a stop to the r-word. If television networks like FOX, F/X, and MTV are now bleeping out the word, we all can. Visit www.r-word.org to join the movement and “spread the word to end the word” …. or you might just see me at your next Thanksgiving dinner!
Thanks, Dr. I. I'd love to have you over for Thanksgiving; you'll never hear the r-word from me or my family!