Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The "R" Word

Retarded. It’s just a word. Right? Wrong. Words have power.

A well-known saying goes:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” b
y Unknown

There has been a national campaign to encourage people to stop using the “R” word. www.r-word.org/  There have been Public Service Announcements with famous actors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T549VoLca_Q

I’d like to give you one more thing to think about. I’d like to share with you how the “R” word became more than just a word to our family.

I clearly remember getting the phone call at work when I was eight months pregnant with Brielle. The specialist called to give me the results from our amnio. I took notes as he told me about our unborn child. He told me she had CMV (cytomegalovirus – although I spelled it wrong the day I took notes from the specialist’s call).

The words “mental retardation” stung as he told me there was a 70% chance our baby would have it. “Still risk MR” jumps out from the notes I took. The words still sting as I read my notes 16 years later.

I clearly remember hearing the report when Brielle first received intelligence testing when she was entering school. “Mental retardation” was not on the report, but I could read between the lines of the report which told us her IQ scores were in the 70’s. My heart broke.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. Until President Obama signed Rosa’s Law into law in October 2010, IDEA used the term “mental retardation” instead of “intellectual disability.” Rosa’s Law changed the term to be used in future to “intellectual disability.” www.disabilityscoop.com/2010/10/11/white-house-rosa-marcellino/10610

Brielle has “mental retardation”. Rosa’s Law now terms it as “intellectual disability”, but Brielle is still the same.

If you hear someone use the “R” word or have used it yourself as a synonym for something stupid, meaningless and not useful, think again. Think about the parents who hear that word for the first time used to refer to their child. Think about me.

There is an “R” in Brielle’s name. Brielle has an intellectual disability. She is technically retarded. But, anyone who knows her knows that she is much more than that term. She is not stupid or meaningless or useless. She is a human being. She is beautiful. She is my daughter.


  1. Well said and Amen Kerith!! Brielle is one lucky girl...and so much more!!

  2. You couldnt say that any better. Izzy is intellectually disabled and I wouldnt change her for the world. We are both blessed with the most amazing, beautiful daughters. You are a wonderful mother and I have enjoyed reading your story.

  3. I am another CMV Mom that travelled over here from the Facebook group when you posted your blog about the tattoo. :) This post is so well written and poignant. I'm glad to hear you are working on a book! You are a beautiful writer. I can feel what you are saying.

    We didn't know until after our Becca was born about CMV and, looking back, I'm pretty sure nobody had any aspirations for her at all because they didn't say much about mental capacity at all. Anyway, I'm glad I made it over here and wanted to give you a "You go, Girl!!" shout out. :D

  4. I can remember one day when I was still in school &I had to get a dr's note & in that note it said that Rachael was a 16 year old girl that had been diagnosed w/ Mild Retardation I remember being in shock & told my Parents I was not retarded it hurts when people refer to you or other special needs kids Retarded it hurts your heart.I am mild disabled.w/ a few learning difficulties.


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