Sunday, April 25, 2010

“That’s retarded.”

You’ve probably heard this before as a comment that follows an account of something somebody did that was silly.

How about this one… “ He’s a retard.”

As a comment that follows a description of what a person did that was not up to par with someone’s standards or expectations.

With both above comments… there are two connotations for the word “retard/ed”… one, that it is something that is silly or funny, OR that it is an insult due to a result of one’s foolish actions.

Well my daughter is retarded… how’s that for a description for a human being? What feelings did it evoke in you? Did you think that I was being rude? Or did you think that I find my daughter comically strange?

NO… I did not, and will not ever, use this word to mean that it is an insult, nor as something that suggests something humorous.

Society has misconstrued the definition of the word “retarded” in so many different ways… from something that connotes peculiar amusement all the way to something that has an offensive undertone.

By definition of the BOOKS, the word retarded means “delayed”… add that to the word mental, then mental retardation in simple terms is “delayed cognitive functioning”. Now, by no means does this mean that when something is super funny then that something is intellectually impaired, or if one makes thoughtless comments or actions then that someone automatically has deficits in mental functioning… for if that were the case then haven’t we ALL at one time or another have done something irrational or imprudent? Haven’t we ALL at one time did something that is deemed uproarious? But are we ALL then going to own up to being described as “retarded”?

My daughter is retarded. At this point she already has significant delays in her development. Though it still is too really predict what the future holds for her, there is already a lot of uncertainties. The label mental retardation is a bitter pill to swallow for any parent with a child who has this condition. Yes folks it is a condition. Not an instance, not a comment, not an action, and most definitely NOT an adjective that can justifiably describe somebody. It is a condition, no more no less. But society, and people with impaired understanding of the depth of what this word really means, deems it otherwise. And this is a sad truth, and a very “retarded” grasp of what the word really means (and by retarded I mean backward).

What makes it harder to swallow is the negative connotation that society has given it.

My daughter has “Mental Retardation”…. Not in the sense of it being a comment or an insult, it is a fact. Is it a great label to have? NO. I don’t think any parent would want that label for their children. Nor would any other label that connotes that something is “not typical” for any child. Anything that connotes a “special need” is something that creates worry and anxiety in any parent, whether the special need be something that is a result of a medical condition or because of a condition that suggests developmental delays (in one or several or all developmental areas). I also do not expect to have everyone be able to understand what “mental retardation” really means, not with society seemingly resisting to have its definition evolve in a positive direction.

But this label, this “Mental Retardation” is a label that qualifies my daughter for services as early as infancy... services she needs.. services that I as a parent cannot provide by myself…. services that can help her move towards the developmental ladder at her own pace, in her own timing, so that she can develop her full potential… so that she may have a better quality of life.

And NO… I don’t think that anything she does is strange and peculiar. If she makes us laugh or smile it is not because she did something really funny, if for anything the smiles and laughter she brings into our home is out of pure and utter JOY of having her enrich our lives… Now how’s that for “retarded”?


Lauren said...

Madonna - this post reminds me of a post a wrote SO LONG ago.

The word really does get so overused and abused that I hate to hear it in the same sentence as our kiddos. But it is our doctors and not the rest of the world that sue the word correctly.

Anyway - just wanted to say great post. I have had these very same thoughts before. So, I understand just how you are feeling. Love Isay!

Anonymous said...

I went to a support group for mothers of kids with special needs. two different women used the word retarded on two separate instances. As in, the bus system of this school is retarded. Or the policies a specialist has are retarded.

The irony was really not lost on me.