A Modern Day Fairy Tale

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Spread The Word To End The Word Awareness Day: 3/6/2013

This is my older brother, Jeff. I am sad to say that I never got the chance to know him, he passed away at 3.5 years old before my sisters and I were born from a heart defect called cardiomyopathy. He was also diagnosed with mental retardation, and suspected Autism. Many people assume that my fight against the r-word began with my own son's Autism diagnosis and have even asked me why it was so important to me, because he- like many with Autism- does not carry that same diagnosis. This is all very true (though does not keep ignorant people from believing otherwise). Still, the reality is it truly started with my brother.

I grew up in a household where the r-word was just as bad, if not worse than any curse word. We were taught that the word was extremely offensive and never to use it. We were also taught acceptance for those who would be considered different. If I had to choose one thing in life that I was MOST thankful to my mom for (and there is a long list), this would certainly be my number one. I have said before that I truly believe this, as well as a few other moments and people in my life, is what prepared me to have a child with special needs myself.

Though my fight against this word did not begin with my son...having a son with Autism certainly has sparked an even bigger flame in me. A fairly common misconception about Autism, one that I've spoke against many times, is the idea that those with Autism are dumb. I cannot tell you how often I have told people of Shaun's diagnosis and heard the response, "But he's so smart." There are even some that hear Autism, and automatically assume mental retardation (a term which is even being phased out by the medical community). So I fight even harder for him, so that he might live in a world that is accepting to any and all differences and disabilities, against people who may in the future use that word against HIM.

To many, the r-word is just a word. They don't mean it in a mean or insulting way, and they certainly have nothing against those with intellectual disabilities, or special needs of any kind. For the majority of people, I truly believe they honestly don't KNOW it's offensive to so many with intellectual and developmental disabilities (the largest population of any disability in the world) and those that love them. They don't realize that in using that word, they are reinforcing the negative stereotypes that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities are stupid, worthless, clumsy or less than...After all, you don't use that word to describe something awesome, right? No, it's used in place of dumb or other negative words. It is the same as any religious or racial slur, which most of us would not dare speak, and yet is tossed around so casually.


Perhaps you're reading this and use this word yourself and like many others had no clue. That is why tomorrow, the Spread The Word To End The Word Day of Awareness is so absolutely important. I ask all of you who haven't already to please take a look at the language you use, and how it affects others. This is not about political correctness, it's about RESPECT!! Share this post, write your own, take the pledge to end the word...Do whatever you can do to spread the word, and make the new r-word respect for those with disabilities.

For more information and to take the pledge, please visit r-word.org.


  1. I totally agree! I cannot stand that word! It is offensive and misleading and just wrong!

  2. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. I lost my son and can imagine your pain... unfortunately.

    I am all for supporting the "End the Word" campaign. Not only because I have a family member on the spectrum but because we should spend our energies building people up, not down.

    Congratulations on Findlay Grace. A beautiful name for a beautiful girl. YOu're so tiny at 15 weeks! Then again, I was carrying triplets so I don't really have any context :)

    Follower via Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/journeyofthezoo), GFC (http://www.blogger.com/follow-blog.g?blogID=1731204445266420681) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/JourneysofTheZoo2).

    Besos, Sarah
    Zookeeper at Journeys of The Zoo
    journeysofthezoo at hotmail dot com

  3. Wow! I hadn't heard of this before! Thanks for sharing. This is so important. Definitely something I too would be VERY passionate about. (((HUGS))) Thanks for sharing your heart and your story with us.

  4. You're right- a lot of people don't even realize the R word is offensive. I remember my brothers and I saying it to each other when we were little, but somewhere along the way while growing up, I learned it was offensive. I've called people out on it over the years, and usually- they have never even thought about it before. Side note: Everyone I've ever known on the spectrum was very smart in one way or another.

  5. I'm so sorry that you never got to know your brother. Like you, I took up the fight on that word on behalf of my brother who is on the spectrum and also had coordination difficulties as a child. I shudder when I hear people say it, and it seems that people don't realize just how offensive that word is.

    I can also totally relate on the "but he's so smart" comment. I can't tell you the number of times someone has said that after I've told them that my brother has Aspergers!

  6. Great post! Your son is adorable! I agree that people don't think about the words they say. Selfish people are a common trait these days and they don't care about how their words affect others. It is important that we teach out kids to be respectful at all times!

  7. It's not just about ending use of a word - it's about changing attitudes! Rude words evolve and change; things that once weren't offensive become so because the attitude behind it persists. I'm so glad you're including information about the humanity of people on the spectrum. No one is just a word!

  8. Wonderful post! This is a terrific campaign and one that needs to be shared again and again. Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse to use such a horrible word.


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