Special Needs

Am I being "that guy"?

Since having DS, I have developed a real sensitivity to inappropriate language for special needs.  Today another teacher shared a document to be posted in all classrooms, and it used the words "crippled" and "mentally retarded". (I should note that these were examples from student essays, and the essays were about having meaningful relationships with people of differing abilities.) I sent the teacher a friendly email suggesting using words that could not be used pejoratively.

I don't want to be a PITA, but I do feel this is one way I can make a difference for people with disabilities. I like to use appropriate words without a negative connotation.

I would hate for one of my students who is disabled to read that page and be hurt. I realize they will experience it in the "real world", but I think in this way school should be safer. 

The teacher was very receptive and apologized for offending me. I told him I was not offended, but it is my own little crusade for kinder language.

Am I the only SN mom who feels this way? I need some feedback! Thanks!



Re: Am I being "that guy"?

  • My cause is absolutely geared toward cures; I fund raise, I rally, I am a local volunteer.  I am, personally, not one for crusading against verbiage.  

    I WANT my child singled out.  I NEED him to be identified as different.  He is!!  If he doesn't receive the attention he needs because I want him to be called "normal," then I am doing him a disservice.  Sure, there are euphemisms for some of the more "derogatory" terms, but they sure aren't defined as such.  Look up the definition of retard; retard doesn't originate with any hate or malice.  The same can be said for the word crippled.

    People have spun them this way and that until they're hardly recognizable anymore. 

    If this is something that you feel passionately about, I wouldn't feel badly about being that guy.  I just don't feel it's something I am going to invest my time in to. 

    Some people are so out of touch with this side of things that the language is so totally different from the last time they checked it.  So, perhaps retard is taboo, but special needs is in?  Or, crippled is out, but atypically developing is in?

    I don't mean to make excuses, but as more and more information comes out, I feel like we all like to be identified by our own personal struggles.  That's really hard to keep up with sometimes. 

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  • I have to agree with Kristein on this...The two words you mentioned are actually non offensive to me. Mentally retarded is actually the proper terminology to use as opposed to simply "retard" or "special". Perhaps you would rather mentally disabled, which is just fine, but I don't think one should be offended by the use of mentally retarded. I do have my thoughts on the word "crippled" but since I don't know the context in which is was used I cannot say if it would have offended me or not.

     I do commend you for standing up for yourself and your students and fighting for the use of correct verbiage. 

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  • Thanks, ladies. I hear what you are saying.

    I should clarify that I do not attack people for using pejorative terms, but I do try to explain how it can be hurtful. I do the same with words like "f-g".

    I should also clarify that "mentally retarded" is a medical term, I realize. But the common use of "retarded" in the pejorative gives it a negative connotation.

    I am an English teacher, so it makes sense that verbiage is especially important to me. I had not thought about that until reading your responses. 

    I teach teenagers, who are about as sensitive as they come, so it's important to me that I don't lose the progress I make with them because of poor choice of words.

    I would love to get into fund-raising or activism on DS' behalf, but we don't have a DX. Even if we did, I think my time would be limited due to working FT and juggling his therapies, specialists, etc.

    I don't think asking people to use appropriate terminology is the same as asking people to pretend someone is typically developing. 

    Thank you so much for your responses. It's nice to bounce ideas off other people in a similar situation. 

  • I agree with you on this entirely.  Perhaps from my background as a trial lawyer, I know, without a doubt, the power of language to shape attitudes, define issues, and change perspectives.

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