The r-word is thrown around often in our society. I admit that even I freely used the r-word when I was younger. It took having Jaycee to understand why the r-word is so offensive. Jaycee became the face of the r-word for me. When I hear people say it, I instantly think of Jaycee.
Even though intellectual disability has replaced the term mental retardation, the r-word is still present in everyday speech. When I hear people say things like, "His hair is the r-word," it got me thinking about how people use the r-word loosely.
Based upon things I hear people say when they use the r-word, these are apparently descriptors of people like my daughter:
-Someone who has a bad hairdo.
-Someone who makes big mistakes.
-Someone who asks too many questions.
-Someone who messes up in games or are the losers in the games.
-Someone who looks ridiculous.
-Someone who doesn't make sense when explaining something.
-Someone who isn't smart.
I have never heard the r-word used in a positive way.
So let's give a name, a face, and a description of someone living with an intellectual disability.
This is Jaycee.
Yes, she has trouble speaking because of a combination of diagnoses despite years of speech therapy.
She cannot run fast and isn't very athletic because she has low tone and lung problems.
She is a slow learner, needs lots of repetition, and can work on the same task for months or years before catching on because of her intellectual disability.
Sometimes, she has trouble understanding directions to the point where 1 or both of us get frustrated.
Sometimes, her face gets messy when she eats. Her low tone makes it difficult for her to feel light food particles on her face.
Sometimes, she gets really, really scared and wets herself because she can't verbalize that fear to me.
Sometimes, her hair looks messy. The bi-pap mask she wears every night leaves her hair a complete mess by the morning.
But, Jaycee is toilet trained, dresses herself, buckles her own seat belt, reads simple sentences, uses a few hundred signs to communicate, and can navigate Netflix as good as I can.
I hope you understand why I cringe at the r-word.
Because she has an intellectual disability, she has to work harder for everything she does.
She's not a joke. Neither are her problems or the way she looks.
The use of the r-word is a cheap shot at people like Jaycee.
Can you see why the r-word makes me cringe?