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Eliminating The R Word???

As y’all probably know by now I’m not normally always politically correct but this is one PC thing I’m in favor of…. eliminating the use of the words “retard” and “retarded” as slang or derogatory terms….

There’s a whole movement and campaign about this and you can sign a pledge that you will “Spread The Word To End The Word” at

What are your thoughts on this?

This hits close to home for the wife and me because while many people don’t put autism & mental retardation together, when you’ve got a severely autistic kid who’s 8 years old and his expressive & receptive language has been consistently at the 15-18 month level for years, guess what… he also could be considered retarded…

So when the wife and I hear that term, especially from people we know, it jolts us a bit, like a slap in the face…. but you’d be surprised how many people use it often with out even realizing it or meaning to.

No I’m not referring to some jerk who’s actually calling a disabled person, a retard.  Of course that’s offensive… But what irks me is when people see something silly or bizarre and say “That’s so retarded” “You’re so retarded”… that kind of stuff….

I’ve even slipped up once in a while…and more recently almost slipped up and found myself starting to say the words “THAT’S SO….” and would redirect my brain mid-sentence to RIDICULOUS instead of retarded….

Again, I know this all sounds very PC.   And this may sound bizarre but it doesn’t always bother me when I hear it used inappropriately in a movie or even in a broad comedy…but when I hear it used on the street or at work or at the family dinner table it makes my skin crawl….

Don’t they know that Kyle (their nephew, cousin, grandson, friend) is also retarded???

Am I too politically correct on this one?  I’d love to hear your thoughts & opinions….

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Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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12 People Replies to “Eliminating The R Word???”

  1. Anonymous

    I totally agree that even before DS was born or diagnosed with ASD, I have always found the use of this word offensive. The original uses before it became the slang word we have now was not so offensive (i.e., to retard growth of weeds, or whatever…you get the idea), but once it began being used to describe someone with developmental delays even in a clinical sense, it began to morph into something very negative. I don't need to use the word, we have never needed to use the word, and it does get under my skin. It's not about being PC, it's about labelling someone. Period.

  2. Jayne

    I don't think it's used much in Britain, I think the last time I heard that word was on an American show or film. I agree it is an ugly word and certainly no one I know uses it.

  3. Anonymous

    I know this post is old, but I think it is a pertinent one. I am not a parent; I am an educator and I so appreciate your perspective on so many things. I would never fault you for standing up for your kid because that is your job, but I question you, is your issue with the 'R-word" the way it is used in our everyday language or how our society treats its members who are developmentally disabled? Removing the word from our vocabulary (and laws) does not remove the stigma nor does it adress the primary concern. I, like you, can find myself correcting myself mid-sentence for word choice. But shouldn't we derive importance from the intention behind the words anyway? I don't know…

  4. To the Anonymous poster from 9:53am on 1/10/12,

    "Putting shit about my family"?

    I wrote this in the most generic way possible… and I said that I've been guilty of mis-using the word myself…

    I honestly wrote this post because I wasn't sure if I was being too sensitive, too politically correct. That's why I wrote this, to guage whether I was being too sensitive…

    I'm still not entirely sure…

    My family does not use the term maliciiously, they use it in it's purest slang sense…

    And we all grew up using it as a slang term… only now do I not like it and try to curb my own use the word…

    I hope you understand and realize that I was in no way trying to throw my family under the bus…

  5. Anonymous

    you know whats a slap in the face? – putting shit about your family on the internet for where everyone can see.

  6. Anonymous

    My guy is almost 22 years old – I have put up with so much in an attempt to bridge-build with family and cousins – didn't work then or now….in a fit of frustration and after a glass of wine or ok 2, my Best girl-friend and I decided we would call peeps who use the R word…fu#ktards. I wonder if they will find it offensive? Say it a few times….it feels good and I think we are on th something….LOL xxoo

  7. I didn't like the word before my son with DS was born, and I don't like it now. It seems to me that most of the time the term "politically correct" just refers to good manners. And the use of the R-word in movies just promotes its use and makes it more acceptable – acceptable to people your son will meet throughout his life.

  8. This one really I'm offended by. At the core– I think it is offensive because it's slang used at the most vulnerable population & one that cannot defend itself. I first became aware of this when my eldest child was born with Down syndrome. When she regressed into autism later it became that much more painful. I gained insight in a new way when our only son was typical then regressed into autism. two more kids, two more regressions. I'm not sure which is more hurtful– when you have a child with an obvious phenotype that displays their intellectual challenges or children with no obvious physical attributes, but the challenges of severe developmental delay. It does bother me when the word is used in movies, etc. Just too close to my heart & cruel. Momma T from Detour Autism

  9. Anonymous

    My mother had very strong opinions about being PC, even 30 years ago, before 'PC' really existed. Growing up in our house, casual derogatory use of the word "retarded" would land you in a far deeper pile of disciplinary poop than dropping a F-bomb. As an adult now with kids of my own, I have no immediate personal reasons for being sensitive about the use of the word (neither of my children are developmentally challenged at all), but I still cringe whenever I hear it used casually, and never hesitate to tell people that I find it thoughtless and offensive. I'd rather be a sanctimonious asshole than silently complicit.

  10. Mac

    Alex had an educational diagnosis of Mental Retardation for years. That diagnosis was a slap in the face for me. When I hear that word being thrown around (or I, not thinking, throw it around) it doesn't really bother me, but when it's directed at a special needs kid or adult, it does. I think deciding if this word is offensive or not is difficult and depends on the way it's being used.

  11. Anonymous

    My son Chris is 16, and his communication level is at an 18-24 month range, and his dx specifically states that in addition to his autism, he is mentally retarded. I have a big problem with people using the term in slang, and I have a big problem with "short bus" jokes, and I know I am WAY too sensitive about these things. It is what it is. I try not to comment when people post "jokes" on my page, it just depends on the day we have had, I guess. I don't think you are being too PC on this one, it is just ugly, and hurtful, and people who aren't living it every day need to realize that it is just mean to those who are.