|Amanda saying, “Hmm…”|
Today I would like to address the label, “Retarded.” I have heard this misused twice in the past three days. In both cases it was applied to my sister Amanda, who has Down’s syndrome. In the first instance, the word was used by a cousin (in-law) in a flustered attempt to define Amanda’s “condition.” She finally finished with, “Well, there are a lot of names you could call her, but she’s a child!”
My response to that was, “There are a lot of names I could call you, too. But she’s an adult.”
In the second, the label was used by the producer of the shows my dogs perform in (more accurately now described as, “my ex show producer”) in an attempt to hurt my feelings and insult me. The phrase was, “You’re retarded, just like your sister.”
My response to that one was, “Thank you.”
Ignorance is found in all walks of life and in all professions. I have experienced the gamut of reactions to Amanda, but the most offensive ones often are from people who I thought would know better. One Michigan library director said, “We have a coupla Down’s Syndromes who work in the cafeteria.”
Uhmmm… A couple of WHAT? Excuse me? And you work WHERE?! I think the title of my next book should be, “I Am Not My Disability!”
I have friends who, when joking around, will say someone is, “retarded,” or, “such a retard,” and then they catch themselves, look at me and apologize. The funny thing is, when it is used in this way, it doesn’t even bother me. I have never been hypersensitive about the label, “retarded.”
The actual definition for “retarded” is, “Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed.”
To me, this would more accurately describe someone with a learning disability. For instance, I could say that I myself am mathematically retarded. Ironically, my cousin-in-law is apparently emotionally, certainly socially, and perhaps intellectually retarded. The show producer is intellectually, emotionally and socially retarded. And both, in terms of understanding disabilities, are suffering from educational retardation.
Amanda, on the other hand, has an extra chromosome. She is academically as advanced as her chromosome collection will allow. She is not “late” or “delayed” at all in her emotional, social and intellectual development. Therefore, I can state pretty accurately that she is less of a retard than the three of us.
So, before you take offense to the word, “retarded,” remember that it does have its applications. The question is, is it being used correctly? To muddle it over seems a good idea, because it might save you a knee-jerk reaction. Or better yet, to use one of Amanda’s catch phrases, “Think again!”