Where do I begin? This is my daughter. She’s “retarded”. I hate that word. It’s a word that cuts sharper than any knife. When I first heard that word with my daughter’s name attached to it, I almost fainted. The room grew dim with a red tint. It turned my world upside down. It wasn’t the diagnosis of Autism or developmental delay. It was retarded. My breath hitched. It still stings me today.
I constantly see this word being used so casually, being thrown around like nothing. This word shuts me down completely. It puts a very dark cloud around me and stops all functioning. Growing up, retarded was used among my peers to describe another kid that we didn’t like or a situation that was stupid. I’m not going to say I didn’t use it, but also, I honestly don’t remember using it. I’m not sure.
But I’m not here to speak to children. That’s the parent’s jobs to teach them. The reason I’m writing this is to inform those that are ignorant to the word. When ‘retarded’ is used to describe a person, adult or child that is *not* mentally challenged, those of us that face this disability on a daily basis take high offense to it. My child is diagnosed as mentally retarded.
But I’m also going to tell you about my daughter. She just turned 13. She is the easiest going, loving, caring, sweetest person on the face of the Earth. She enjoys life, loves to travel, always has a smile on her face and is always blowing kisses to everyone. She also has the mentality of a 6 to 7-year-old child. There are things she can do, and things she cannot. Most 13-year olds can bathe themselves, dress themselves, clean themselves after using the bathroom, serve themselves food and drinks, read chapter books, go out with their friends, look both ways before crossing the street, understand stranger danger, and know the dangers of swimming alone; these are all things my daughter cannot do. I am with her 24/7/365- every second of every day.
My daughter is diagnosed mentally retarded. She is autistic and developmentally delayed. This diagnosis doesn’t define us. We don’t allow it to. So, the next time you see this word being used, turn around and use us as an example. It may shed a new light on the stigma of using the word “retarded” as an insult.
Andrea is a mother to 5 children aged 13 to 23 years old; her youngest being autistic and homeschooled. She was born and raised in Ohio but has lived in Arizona for the past 15 years. She's a certified private investigator and is certified in ABA therapy. She enjoys reading, doing various crafts, and spending time with her family.