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PLEASE lose the word “retard” from your vocabulary

It’s ironic that I spend my days trying to help my children NOT lose words from their vocabulary and here I am asking you to lose the word “retard” from yours.

In 2011, why do I still hear people using the word “retard” to describe persons with special needs?
I personally find it offensive, ignorant and it speaks to the character of the person using it. When the word “retard” is used to describe a person with special needs, it’s degrading, dehumanizing and grossly inappropriate.
One of the most painful experiences in my life is hearing people refer to my beautiful children as “retards”. You wouldn’t believe how often it actually happens. It literally takes EVERYTHING in me not respond or even go on the offensive. Those of you with

Daddy and Emmett

special needs kids can imagine how I would LIKE to deal with these ignorant people. However, If I responded to them then my kids would assign meaning to that word. I don’t EVER want to have that conversation with my kids….EVER. I don’t EVER want to look any of my children in the eyes and have to explain what was meant by the word “retard”. PLEASE don’t make me have to do that. It would destroy me.

I have a long summer ahead of me filled with people using that word in reference to my children. Please show some respect and compassion. Don’t encourage these people by laughing at their jokes or comments. Show some backbone and stand up for what’s right. Some day you may find yourself in my shoes and your actions today can help define the world your child will be facing in the future.

My special and amazingly beautiful children that you insult and degrade are stronger than you and I. You see, they will forgive you for calling them that….I won’t.

I don’t mind if you refer to my kids as special or having Autism but honestly, you could just refer to them by the names they were given at birth. That’s how I refer to them and you should do the same.

 Please join my cause to end the use of the word “retard” when referring to persons with special needs, especially children.

About the author

Lost and Tired

I'm Rob Gorski and I started this blog in January 2010 as a means of sharing my family's real life journey raising 3 boys on the #Autism Spectrum.
It's important for people to understand what Autism can really be like and the impact it has on the family. We aren't a TV show and there are no actors. This is our struggle, our journey...and it's all true.

I am "Lost and Tired" and
this is "My Reality #Autism".

Permanent link to this article: http://www.lostandtired.com/2011/04/28/please-lose-the-word-retard-from-your-vocabulary/

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Alan Robinson says:

She is, thank you. !

Lost and Tired says:

Your wife is awesome…. Way to go…. ☺

Alan Robinson says:

My ex neighbour actually called my autistic son this on world autism awareness day 3 years ago and was then upset when my wife put a notice in the window to tell everyone what he had said!

Bethany Hogan-Zawislak says:


Kristine Lackner-All says:

I have been against that word all my life. It started many fights with me even in grade school. It should be removed. And the jokes just the same

Liza Ponce says:

Not said in this household!

fionaautieauntie says:

Karolyn Kovtun, aka Karolyn E. Kovtun, a criminal defense attorney in San Diego County, recently called the autistic victim represented by Prosecutors, ” a retard.” Specifically, in attempting to justify her client’s abuse of the autistic person, Kovtun stated, “My client is a saint for having to put up with that retard.” Yes, discrimination of autistic people still occurs, but when you hear it coming from an attorney who is supposed to have professional conduct and instead insults the crime victim because they are disabled, we know we have a long, long way to go in the fight against discrimination of autistic people.

Shannon Lance says:

Well, my son has a primary diagosis of West Sydnrome, which includes mental retardation.  The politically correct term is severe developmental delay.  But in pure English it means delayed.  I grew up in the 80s and we used retard all the time to snipe at each other, mostly in fun.  It is too easy to worry about semantics, but if someone called my son a Retard in a derogatory fashion, I would verbally skewer him in a way he would never forget.  If my practioner referred to the term retard, I would accept it as an actual fact of the situation.  Most people are just ignorant of the special needs community, I know I was until my son was born.   I think it is best to try to educate as much as possible when it is appropriate, and ignore the rest.  Most people aren’t highly intelligent souls, God love them.  Much is spoken out of slight.  But when it is spoken out of hatred, watch out for my wrath.

Velvet Martin says:

While I realize that most individuals do not use terminology with ill intent, for me, hearing such phrases makes me cringe. Upon the birth of my daughter who was born with a rare medical condition resulting in global developmental delays, Autism, etc., only a page in an archaic medical text-book existed discussing the syndrome and I can remember as if yesterday, the geneticist handing me the page which stated developmental prognosis, "Imbecility." From that day forward, I cannot listen to negative jargon – even something as benign as a Disney film that calls a character such a word – without feeling horrible.

Well said. Thanks for sharing. :-)

Harold L Doherty says:

A large number of children with autistic disorder, including my son, have intellectual disabilities.

I\’m not sure what your saying. Are you saying that you prefer people not to use the r-word?

PaulSmith82 says:

I agree with not using retard to describe special needs people, but i cannot justify losing a viable word from the dictionary to describe something that has been slowed down or beneath a persons level of intelligence.  If you have a suggestion I would love to hear it. 

Janine says:

I do not like that word either but there is no comparison between retarded and Autistic, they are not the same. If someone referred to my child as retarded I would tell them no that is incorrect. My child IS Autistic big difference. There are a lot of Autistic children that are gifted borderline genus. I would tell them to look up the word cause they obviously don't know then meaning.

chavisory says:

Seriously, I made a commitment recently to challenge and stand up to inappropriate use of the word "retarded." And then when I was really paying attention….I heard it so often I didn't even know where to begin.

Lori says:

I despise the word "retard." I grew up with a sister with special needs and have a nephew with autism. Because everything on tv, video, and movies is scripted, there's no reason for any version of the word "retard" to be used in the media. When I'm out in public I don't respond when I hear comments like "that's so retarded!". I just hope a special needs person isn't nearby to hear it.

Wendy F says:

My siblings and I grew up in the late 60s, early 70s, when "retarded" was an actual diagnosis. My brother was diagnosed as being "mentally disturbed" and "hyperactive". He was also epileptic. None of this stopped others from calling him retarded; in fact, it all seemed to fuel the other kids to call him retarded and more, as hurtfully as they could manage.

I now have an autistic son and thank the gods that he's not subjected to the same kind of treatment. There's no place for such behavior, ever. Kudos to you for keeping your cool. I'd tell 'em right where to stick it, myself.

LLA_Princess says:

I am so unbelievably blown when people say it that it fills me with rage. EVEN worse though is when EDUCATED people use the word to explain things that are "stupid"

Thank you so much for advocating and educating for all of our kids. Hugs to you and yours :)

Tim says:

While I see why this is said, I don't see the word as derogatory myself. To me it carries the exact same connotation as Autistic, or anything else: it's just a way of saying what it is. I think the important difference there is that I would never address anybody by either of those terms, if at all possible.

Do I use it? Yes. Do I mean any harm by it? No.
My mom works with severely Autistic kids, and I have a high-functioning autistic friend.

LeftyLuna says:

So, you don't see the word as derogatory, but you're being told by parents of children with Autism, and by people with Down's Syndrome that it is. So, maybe it matters more how it's perceived than how you mean it. It's hurtful. Stop it.

Here's a video that might put it in perspective for you: http://youtu.be/T549VoLca_Q

Bob Griffin says:

Heartfelt. Thanks for some perspective.

James says:


It's a word, you only make it good or bad by how you take it. Lighten up.

I wrote this a while ago, for a class, to practice APA or MLA or some other stuff for a writing class. But all that meant was not only did I get to speak from my heart, I got to whack some people upside the head with cold, hard facts. It's called "Using the Word Retarded is Gay". http://kibblesbits.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/using… It's just not good. :( And for when I'm not feeling so academic, I made this video, I'm sure you've heard everything in it too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54lo2W2WCMQ All about the stupid comments (including the R word) that parents like us have to put up with.
My recent post Top 10 snappy answers to annoying comments about autism Autism Support Network

Lost_and_Tired says:

All right. I have deleted ThyGuyX's comments as well as ALL reply's (including my own). ThyGuyX is struggling in his life and his family is REALLY struggling to help him. I was contacted by his sister and she apologized for what he said and explained what was going on. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family as they try to make it through a very dark time.

Thank you ALL for your support and please don't be offended that I removed your replies. I just felt that it was appropriate seeing as he is struggling with mental health issues and his comments don't reflect who he really is. Thanks again for all the support.
My recent post Autism- self-injury and “outside the box” thinking

Shoulon commented on Lost and Tired:

I like how he took his time to type such a pathetic excuse for his own being. Its people like him that explains why we have poverty and inconciderate ill-mannered guys like him. Obsurd…

Oh my Lord… Rob, I am so sorry that you have to read this garbage. Pay no mind to what this ignorant person says. This person obviously does not care about human beings or believe in God. Let this roll off your back. Pray for him as hard as it is… for your treasure lies in heaven. You and your wife are wonderful people and wonderful parents. Do not let anyone make you feel otherwise. God Bless you both and your children as well! With Love, ~ Carla ~

marc commented on Lost and Tired:

Let me get this straight……you obviously are a self centered little man that probably don't have 2 good friends, or let alone two teeth and you are insulting one of the kindest hearted guys you could ever meet.You reek of complete ignorance and all things wrong with the world today bubby…..DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS UNTIL YOU'VE WALKED A MILE IN THEIR SHOES. And for the record, i'd rather spend my tax dollars supporting this mans family, then supporting worthless fucks like you that are to lazy to work and you supposedly don't have a mental disability. Probably better that we never rub shoulders in the real world little man…you just keep hiding behind that keyboard showing us what real stupidity looks like!!

Bubbles Make Him Smile commented on Lost and Tired:

So does that mean we can question your parents who obviously didn't hug you as a child??

Oh my Lord… Rob, I am so sorry that you have to read this garbage. Pay no mind to what this ignorant person says. This person obviously does not care about human beings or believe in God. Let this roll off your back. Pray for him as hard as it is… for your treasure lies in heaven. You and your wife are wonderful people and wonderful parents. Do not let anyone make you feel otherwise. God Bless you both and your children as well! With Love, ~ Carla ~

ThyGuyX commented on Lost and Tired:

Let me get this straight… you have three retarded kids. That means that not only are you our your wife are making genetic failures, you kept right on breeding afterwards. Maybe you didn't now about the first one immediately, and possibly didn't know about the first by the time you had the second, but wtf at the third.

Do you plan on caring for these things their entire lives or do the taxpayers eventually have to baring the load of even more unwanted animals.

diane says:

you think we make progress but then at 18 the big "R" word comes right up in your face…the court process of limited conservatorship…ya gotta get a written letter from a MD saying your child is "MR" to show the Judge why a person needs to be "an outside brain" for your young adult.

get used to the idea we are fired from making medical and educational decisions for our kids when they turn 18. A Judge will decide who gets to be the conservator and the conservator gets to choose where the person lives.

Just so ya know…the child's living grandparents on both side must be served with court papers asking if they want the Job (and will be interviewed by the court investigator if they think the person asking for the Job is up to it), also the legal parents of the child and the child's sibling.

it is a maddening and expensive process and to top it all off the R word is used like it is nothing…and it is something…a medical term.

ps..neighbors and friends are also interviewed asking how the "petitioner" deals with the stress of the Job. We all know how many friends we have left by 18years of parenting super hard kids…so learn to kiss ass and watch your full disclosure (a court investigator might say even posting pics, information and giving real names online is a break of the young adults privacy…)

giving clear expectations only…I wish I had years of warning for that conservatorship process and how that R word is all over it.

Thanks everyone for the support.

armour24 says:

You said it brother!

Julia says:

Ditto…really hate this word! I once had someone ask me if the kids I work with are 'retarded'…if looks could kill we'd have one less ignorant fool around! At uni we're taught not to define people by their diagnosis so instead of referring to someone as 'autistic' or 'schizophrenic' it's a child with autism or a person with schizophrenia..first and foremost they are always a person.

AMEN & AMEN. I hate that word!!!

AMEN & AMEN. I hate that word!!!

Lost_and_Tired says:

I don't agree with you. The word "retard" in no longer accepted. MRDD is now DD at least in the state of ohio. Someone calling an Autistic child "retarded" speaks to that persons LACK of intelligence. There are just some words that are derogatory. "Retard" is one of them. Until someone calls your child a "retards" them perhaps you can pretend it's ok. I'm sorry you seem to have given up on this but I won't. It's wrong and I stand up for what's right, regardless of the odds. No offense.
My recent post Autism- self-injury and “outside the box” thinking

Ungovernable1977 says:

Hey Rob… been looking into this, as I unfortunately have thown this word around for years, NOT in a way directed at anyone with ANY actual mental disorder, etc… but just 'thats retarded'… just as I use 'thats gay'… a sad lack of growing up, probably due to the sailor mouth friends I have kept all of us supposedly enlightened anarcho-punks… Anyways, I did some QUICK research, as a very logic-only minded friend said 'but aside from the slur, its a real term, both medically and otherwise'. So I looked it up, and yes, Medicine still uses it. The ironic thing is that 'medically' autism and the whole spectrum did not show up anywhere… it was mainly down syndrome, FAS, and an extra chromosome…. either that or due to an injury or even just inexplicably low IQ (like 70 or less I think). Reading this, its definately up there with 'lunatic' as outdated terms that the medical industry (we are in the U$) needs to lose more than anyone, it really makes them (DSM-IV mental disorders) look ignorant…? Lazy?… It is used as a definition for a huge group of illnesses and developmental issues, and also as a symptom of these same illnesses???? As far as the word 'retard', I found a great site that has the audio of someone saying the word, BOTH ways, one the original french/latin-ish pronunciation, the other the derogatory version we all know well… the first say being used to describe drag on an airplane or just something that slows something down, then the version that our brilliant western medicine created by bringing the word into medicine at all, if it werent for that, there would be no slur. The other day, I was called an 'idiot'… well thats basically the same thing… and it has no root in medicine as far as I know, but I wouldn't put it past anyone pre-1980s….

So I guess the issue could really come back to using things that are different than you, or you are afraid of because you dont understand, as an insult. I personally am trying to stop using it, as its not even in malice, but casually, as an extreme version of stupid… which is wrong…. both ethically and linguistically… youre right, the word should be stricken, but for more than just the slur, but for the absurdness of it. It was probably applied to medicine by those who thought they could drill into your head to let the demons out. As a 33 year old anarchist, I have literally fought all the bad 'isms' and the people who espouse them, and yet something as simple to correct on my part, slips back into my vocabulary… thanks for the wake up, and you handled that person a lot better than I would have… good job restraining yourself before acting, it takes a lot of strength for that. Oh, looking forward to your badass MidNight GB when source drops… if you have time!

free says:

Hi Rob. Although I agree the word "retard" should not be used due to its etymology, I don't believe people use it due to their lack of intelligence. Many people use the word as a way to communicate because they have no other options. It is more of a lack of knowledge. (Unless they are using it to be hurtful)

Lost_and_Tired says:

Very well written and very intelligent response. Thanks a lot!!! :)

Liz says:

I agree. Some people use it in order to communicate with others because that was the type of environment they grew up in.