Works For Me Wednesday- Watching My Words

Disclaimer right up front. I get a fair amount of press releases and pitches to write about who knows what most days. This is not one of those. This is something that is just near and dear to my heart and something I heard about and wanted to promote.

When I was in high school there was a boy named Bill who was mentally challenged. Because of it he used to be picked on. It broke my heart. So a couple of my friends and I took him under our wings. He sat with us at lunch. We would occasionally take him out around town to bowl (he beat me), eat or hang out at the mall. And we would visit him at the home where he lived. He didn’t have any family so our visits became really important.

I am not sharing that to make myself sound awesome in any way. I share it because it was the very first  of many times that a person with special needs found his way into my heart. When I finished graduate school I began working as a physical therapist for children with special needs. I found myself head over heels for kids with autism, sensory disorder, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome. Especially Down’s Syndrome. Oh my goodness, they absolutely stole my heart.

On March 3rd, the Special Olympics is asking people to think about their use of the r-word in your speech as part of “Spread the Word to End the Word.” And I will confess I use the word. Not to refer to people who are mentally challenged of course, but I don’t think that earns me any sort of pat on the back. Words are meaningful. They matter and they have the power to lift up and the power to destroy. And I don’t want mine to ever hurt someone. Especially someone who already has enough stacked against them.

So I am going to make every effort to eliminate the r-word from my vocabulary. Won’t you join me?


For more Works For Me Wednesday ideas, head over to Rocks in my Dryer.


  1. The Special Olympics makes me cry – I am so much more attached to this than I am to the ‘real’ Olympics because I am so proud of the athletes. And yes, I occasionally toss out the ‘r’ word but always know it’s wrong – so yeah, I’ll join you.
    .-= Jen@BigBinder´s last blog ..Things To Do =-.

  2. My sister is learning disabled. This is important – thanks for doing this.
    .-= amy2boys´s last blog ..Weekly Winners – Pinewood Derby =-.

  3. Sharing this. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. absolutely. i’d like to add “gay” to the list, when used in a similarly derogatory fashion. it’s hurtful and unnecessary.
    .-= suzannah´s last blog ..the eco-nomical baby guide (and giveaway) =-.

    • Completely agreed! We wouldn’t find it appropriate to say “That’s so white! (or black! or Jewish!”) as a derogatory term. Why is it okay to use gay or retarded?
      .-= The Saved Quarter´s last blog ..Kids say the darndest things =-.

  5. I definitely need to do this. I have never meant it towards someone learning disabled…just as a slang for something being stupid or annoying. The truth is, mentally challenged people are neither stupid nor annoying and I intend to take up your challenge to help prove the cause! Thanks, Jill!
    .-= Devion´s last blog ..A little bit of nothing =-.

  6. My aunt lived until the age of 2, and had Down’s. this was in the 40’s. I grew up absolutely knowing that the r-word was never to pas my lips, and I have raised my kids the same way. Good for you and I applaud your quest. And say “Thank you” for what you have chosen to do with your life. God Bless.
    .-= Kelli´s last blog ..OHSU =-.

  7. Thanks for the challenge! It’s worth taking.
    .-= Adventure Mom Janna´s last blog ..UPDATED with Giveaway: Shepherding a Child’s Heart: Links to Chapter Reviews =-.

  8. After my mom’s sister was killed in a car crash, she was especially sensitive to people saying, “It almost killed me” or “I wanted to die”- you just never know someone’s background or context. I’m sure we can use better descriptive vocabulary to convey the same message, no? I always think that about needless cursing (lots on Scotland!!!)- the English major inside me screams “Do you really not know of any better way to say that?”

    Emily/Miss Mommy
    .-= Emily Malone´s last blog ..Give-Away! =-.

  9. Tawna says:

    Thanks for sharing this. The r-word makes me shudder. My uncle has down-syndrome, so I always took it personally when someone used it…

  10. This is a battle I’ve been fighting for 14yrs! I constantly have arguments with friends and family about how the r-word does not mean stupid and shouldn’t be used in place of stupid. (which is how it’s used). Thank you for posting this.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  11. Thank you so much for writing about this. My daughter had developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and medical issues, and this word just cuts me to the quick. And I admit to using it myself, before.

  12. Great post, Jill… thanks!

    You know my bro is a SO athlete… I find myself casually using that stupid “R” word in conversation. It’s because I’d never in a million years connect that word to him. To me, he’s “normal” because he’s all I know. The best bro ever…

    I’m going to make a better effort to stop saying it… it’s just unnecessary!
    .-= Jolon´s last blog ..Coupons for Easter Candy & Where to Find Deals? =-.

  13. I’m so glad that you’re bringing attention to this issue. My mom has taught special ed for the last 15 years and because of that I have a special sensitivity to kids with special needs. The kids are so precious and the “r” word just seems to have so much hate behind it. I’m glad to see that it’s becoming more and more taboo to say it. I really appreciate this post.
    .-= Candace´s last blog ..Like Daughter Like….. Well Not Me =-.

  14. Thank you. As a mother to a special needs child, this is close to my heart. I have found myself taking on this issue with people around me (even on Facebook) as it is hurtful and totally unnecessary. Hopefully, the more we bring this out to the open and talk about it, the more we can educate others to stop using it.

  15. Sherry says:

    What a blessing to be involved in Special Olympics. I helped a few times, although it as been quite a while.

  16. Standing up and applauding.

    So glad that you chose to write about this.

  17. Love it… thanks SO much for posting on this!

  18. Thank you so much for bringing up this topic. I was raised with a Down Syndrome cousin and I too shutter inside when I hear the word. I rarely correct people, but wish I could. I know they don’t mean harm, it’s just they don’t know any better. But thanks to you more people will no better.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..FREE Crest White Strips =-.

  19. Guilty. And feeling guilty. Why the heck am I using a word that makes me feel guilty? Time to stop–thanks for this post.
    .-= Shelby´s last blog ..Works For Me Wednesday: Flylady =-.

  20. Awesome reminder. You’re a good girl, Charlie Brown.

  21. Victoria says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! And I think this is a wonderful pledge!

  22. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids.I found a sea shell aand gave it to myy 4 year old daughter and said
    “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There wass a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to goo back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!
    box.com recently posted…box.comMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge