Lucy Has People!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The “R” word, ignorance, diversity, and unsung heroes…….

I of course share this story with some bias. 
If you’ve been a reader for any amount of time or just browsed my “about me” page you know that not only have I been an advocate of those that experience developmental disabilities for my entire life but that my daughter, who just happens to have a developmental disability, is the light and joy in my life. 
 Through the journey of advocacy I’ve learned more about love, respect, heart, and character through the victories, struggles, and sincerity of single person with developmental disability than I have from 1000 of their non-disabled counterparts. The literally hundreds of individuals that I have had the surreal privilege of knowing and supporting over the years is not something that you can even put to words….a cliché, I know but true nonetheless.
Ms. Ma’am has taught me so much about myself than all my time in the classroom, in love, in friendships, or all of my life lessons….her confidence, virtuousness, and unpretentious character is all that I strive to be but will never achieve at her capacity. However, her disability is just a small part of who she is, it certainly doesn't define her....she is not her disability.
In my personal and professional role of advocacy, I try to model the behavior of person centered respect, a respect that I hope is reflected in all that I say and do. The words we say, how we say them, and our actions matter…..they are far too powerful to disregard.
Unlearning the “R” word has been a focus for persons with developmental disabilities and their advocates. Not only is it a uniformed demonstration of ignorance but the derogatory connotations it carries is just plain ugly….I don’t like ugly and above all, “God don’t like ugly!”
I have not and will not ever see the humor in the referencing of calling someone the “R” word, it’s not funny, cute, or even considered accurate medical terminology; it's just plain ignorant. 
A little education for you here…..
The preferred terms for mental retardation are 'intellectual disability', 'cognitive disability', or, the broader term, 'developmental disability, the term Developmental disability is the more person centered term for mental retardation. Many of you may recall that well-publicized apology of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to advocates for the disabled for his use of the term during his time in office, sparking the conversation among congress and the people of the United States.
With President Obama’s enactment and congressional passage of Rosa’s Law (2010), changing ALL language references in Federal law from mental retardation to references of intellectual disability, and changing references to a mentally retarded individual (US Congress, 2010). The ARC of the United States (2013), advocates of those with DD, and self-advocates have become increasing politically organized and have overwhelmingly indicated their disapproval of the long outdated use of the term mental retardation.
So why on earth are we still allowing people to use it? Our doctors say it, kids throw it around loosely in order to insult one and other, and the public at large has done little to educate themselves or change their attitudes in regard to people with disabilities.
Differences do not make someone with a developmental disability any less of a thinking or feeling human being. The words we use are a reflection of how we see them………It’s high time that we organize ourselves and support this group of people just like we would any other group of people that are different than you, me, or even someone else that you know…black, white, green or purple; the time for respecting diversity is long overdue. 
Attitudes don’t change overnight or all at the same time but they begin changing with one action, gesture and person at a time.
People like this………….
Michael is a waiter, who while at work heard a patron say “Special needs children need to be special somewhere else” the comment was in reference to Milo, a young boy who was dining with his parents at an adjacent table. Milo happens to have downs syndrome.

Michael refused to serve the man.
He isn’t a celebrity, he isn’t rich, doesn’t have 5000 Facebook friends or 1+M Twitter followers (though he may by the time all is said and done) but his voice, character, and actions have proven to be beyond powerful and are exactly what it takes to make a difference.
Michael and people like him are the unsung heroes of doing the right thing.
Is it always comfortable, popular, and without risk?
In short, no. BUT it is necessary if we are to ever fully embrace all people, regardless of differences.
What we say, do, and believe matter and Michael is proof that the right thing does make a difference.
 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4
Michael, may your moment in the spotlight be longstanding and continue the conversation for Milo, those who experience developmental disability, and all groups of people….you will be blessed, you are a blessing. 

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Randi said...

Wonderful post, one I agree with strongly, and a topic I myself have written about several times. I was incredibly blessed to have grown up in a home where the r word was just as bad, if not worse, than any curse word. My older brother (who unfortunately passed before my sisters and I were born) was diagnosed with mental retardation and suspected Autism. My mother taught my sisters and I how hurtful the word was and instilled in us that it was never to be used in our home. I think it was this teaching against the word, as well as acceptance of EVERYONE regardless of disability is what prepared me to later have a child with Autism as well, and for that I am very grateful and only wish that other parents could instill this in their children as well! Love this waiter...he deserves the largest tip in the world for this!

toemail said...

Great post!

Chris said...

Hi Lucy, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

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