It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and we were all outside having a good time. The kids were playing on the trampoline and my husband and I were working away on our trailer.
My daughter comes into the trailer all upset. “The neighbours just yelled at us” my husband and I just looked at her in disbelief. What do you mean they just yelled at you? My daughter told us they told them to shut up. They are being too loud.
Of course, that was a no go, my husband went over there and spoke to them. The neighbour said “There is something wrong with your child, I think he is ‘retarded’.
My heart sank. My son was in earshot. He heard these complete strangers call him a name. The heartbreak on his face was just devastating.
Are they serious? Are they really upset to hear kids in the backyard playing? My mind was racing. How low can people be to call my child names? How low can people be to yell at children for playing in the backyard? I am disgusted.
Growing up in the 80s the word ‘retarded’ was thrown around like confetti. It was the popular insult of that time frame.
“I used the wrong font on my essay, I am so retarded” back then it just seemed to the best and easiest way people would use to describe when they did something stupid.
Back then I would fluff that word off like it was just another word, it certainly never sat well with me, but I never gave it a second thought till I had kids. Till I had a child with special needs.
Hearing this word now kills me. It runs through my body like a bunch of knives being throw at me. This word to me is a swear word. This word needs to go.
Every day a mother was a special needs child struggles. We struggle with everyday living needs of the child. We struggle with trying to understand why our child, our beautiful baby has to have such a hard life. We struggle with how this is so unfair.
“I think he is retarded” It’s just booming in my hears. At this moment I stop breathing. I wanted to lose it. The mama bear in me wanted to tear those people apart limb from limb. My kids were watching me, like hawks. So I quickly scooped them all up and went inside and let my husband handle it.
After everything settled down, it really sank in. I should have been harder on them, I should have stepped up and told them that the “R” word is not okay. Maybe they would think before they threw that word out there, maybe they wouldn’t, but I just wanted to get my kids out of that situation.
My son who is 9 years old, has ADHD, High functioning autism, social anxiety and a learning disability. He is smart and funny and full of life. I wouldn’t change him for the word. These labels do not define him. When I look at him I don’t see these labels, I see my beautiful baby boy who makes my heart melt every day.
Many people don’t see firsthand what it is like to have a child with a disability. I do my best every day to educate people. In hopes that one day these words that people throw around gets thrown in the garbage. That one day instead of judging from afar they would just come and ask questions. I promise you I won’t get offended I encourage it.
Since my son is high functioning, just by looking at him you wouldn’t know. Some people would think since it is not severe they have it easy. The reality is quite different.
What people see in their eyes is a boy that has behavior issues. They just assume that he is just not being raised properly and that, of course, is all their parent’s fault right? This is what happens when you don’t ask questions you just assume.
My son has extreme sensory issues. He does not like loud noises, crowds, extreme tastes like sour or spicy, bright lights or weird touches to things like slim.
My son has no social clues. In his mind when he is having a conversation he has no idea what is a civil conversation or when someone is making fun of him. He has no idea what too loud is. He has no idea when it is okay to speak or wait his turn.
My son has anxiety. When something is new he doesn’t know how to react to it. When something is changing he doesn’t know how to react to it.
My son lacks planning skills. It is hard for him to plan, manage and cope with the tiniest scheduling change, in school and at home. My son can do many great things, but if there is an obstacle or something goes wrong. He doesn’t know how to handle the situation.
My son has difficulty following simple instructions. My son CAN do a lot of tasks, but when told verbally, sometimes things get lost in translation. “Clean your room then you can play on your Nintendo” What he may hear is “Clean your room” or “You can play on your Nintendo” Breaking down how you word things with him really helps.
To a person that doesn’t see these things first hand, to a person who doesn’t have these difficulties could assume these are things someone can get over. That these things are easily ‘fixed’ I promise you, these are not behaviour issues. These are his everyday struggles and will probably have these struggles for the rest of his life.
This word is never okay to use, in any situation. This word needs to be wiped out of your vocabulary. Knowing 1 child with a disability doesn’t mean you know them all. It means you know that 1. Each child with a disability are their own person, they have their own struggles and their own gains. It is better to ask questions then just stare and make rude comments.
Just because one child doesn’t learn the same way as other children, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them. It just means that we as parents or caregivers or family need to find a different way to teach them.
You as a parent will learn how to thrive and grow and change to understand the needs of your child. Yes, you will feel frozen at times, just know it will get better and it will get hard but you will figure it out.
It is okay to feel sad. That your child will not have a ‘normal’ childhood. It is really hard, but know that you can make their life the best possible way to make sure they are happy and healthy and smiling.
Be thankful for the little things. I am so thankful when my son puts his shoes on the right way, I make a big deal about it, “Amazing job buddy” Or when he parts with a stuffed animal that is broken because he gets so attached to things.
Try not to read into what people say to you. I know it is hard and I find myself really overthinking what people say. You will find yourself annoyed with peoples positive attitude because it may seem like they are minimizing the magnitude of your child’s challenges, you may find yourself annoyed with peoples negative attitude towards your child because they don’t recognise your child’s progress.
I am grateful for the times that we live in. There is so much new information out there that helps people educate. We now live in an age with the internet. We can now connect with other moms that are deal with the same things we are. We have support when we feel like we are all alone. To share our experiences.
My hopes are that one day, people will ask questions. My hopes are my son will not have to live in a world where people are so mean and so quick to say hurtful words.
My hopes are that respect becomes the new “R” word.