I will never forget the day a stranger asked me if my daughter was retarded…
It began as a typical day, drop my son off to school then off to the hospital for Olivia’s appointments. As I hurried through the revolving doors, Olivia in one arm and her sister Kameron holding the other; I accidentally dropped Kameron’s bag of snacks. A lady bent down, picked them up and matter of factly said to me, “She is awfully big to be carried, you should make her walk”, directing her statement to Olivia. Trying not to lash out at her; taking the split second I had, I decided to calmly explain Olivia having Cerebral Palsy and how she couldn’t walk. Thinking that would suffice, I began to gather the girls and walk away, when the next sentence the stranger spoke would freeze me in my tracks. The lady asked, “is she retarded?”
Completely shocked, I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say. I couldn’t speak; desperately I held back the tears, not wanting my daughters to witness their mother’s heartbreak. If I could go back to that moment this is how I would respond:
Retarded is a word that suggests a person’s disability be defined as weakness or defect, a word that is saturated in ignorance. A word that should never be used to describe another human being! Let me tell you what my daughter is. Olivia is beautiful, smart, joyful, courageous, and loving. In her young life, she has overcome and endured such hurdles; you could not comprehend the strength she comprises. She is a remarkable little girl who has inspired me and many more with the incredible determination and positive attitude ingrained within her personality. You see, her disability or difference does not define her. Yes it sets her apart, but in a way that her unique abilities enrich our lives and the society around her. Individuals like Olivia, with special needs all comprise ability to learn and succeed.
The word “retarded” applies more properly to the ignorant, weak and defective conceptions people in society share with you. Have a nice day!
To everyone reading this, let’s spread the word to end the word!