"To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:3

The Burckhard Family

The Burckhard Family

Friday, September 24, 2010

Question for you.....Need Your Help!

As you may know, I am co-teaching a course at our local university called "Disability and Society."

This next class we will focus on how language impacts and reflects attitudes and actions. So, I thought I would ask you, blog readers, for your wisdom and input!

What would you tell a student about how language, such as "retard", "spaz", etc., affects you and your family or loved one?

I would love to share some actual quotes (w/o names) with the students. No right or wrong answers....just your opinions!

Thanks for your help!


  1. This is a friend of mine with a DD, and I think it says it all:

  2. Paula,
    This is an excellent question, and so important to discuss with future professionals who will work with persons with disabilities.

    While no one in our immediate family has a noticeable disability, I have reminded many former Voc Rehab clients as well as our own children that EVERYONE has some kind of limitation, physical or otherwise. Even the child with glasses may shrink from a name as innocuous as "four-eyes" if they are concerned about how this uniqueness affects their 'belonging' in a social setting.

    Name calling is a way for one person to place distance between himself and what he perceives as a weakness in another person, I think. The name-caller might be motivated by fear, frustration, conceit, awkwardness in knowing how to respond to a new situation, or they just might generally have a mean-spirited disposition.

    The effect on the person being labeled with a derogatory term seems to vary by how well they are prepared for it, and how well-accepted they generally feel in their life. The fragile, easily-hurt person (including the family member of someone with a disability) might conclude that they are not 'safe' in the world, or at least in that milieu.

    However, if love, support, and acceptance are the norm for the recipient, they are more likely to attribute the unkind or stereotypical term as a commentary on the name-caller rather than as a reflection of their own personal worth. Forgiveness is the right response, coupled with firm, but kind confrontation by those in authority of those who use unkind words as weapons or walls.

    I believe name-calling is part of living in a broken, fallen, sinful world. How much nicer life would be if we could all teach our children that EVERY person is made in the beautiful image of God!

  3. Although no one in my family has a disability, I worked with kids with special needs at an orphanage in Argentina for 2 months. It was beyond hard at times and there were plenty of moments when I thought "I can't wait to go home" but I stuck it out and LOVED It. Although many of those children didn't understand name-calling or feeling shunned by society (as they never realized that they never left the orphanage), it affects me when I hear people use words like "retard." I can't help but think of my precious kids from Argentina, who yes, are actually retarded and I don't think it's something to joke about. I think more people need to spend time with people with disabilities to see how great they can be! They're the reason I now want to be a special education teacher. :)

  4. Our oldest daughter has Down Syndrome. For our immediate family of 5, it's normal. It's all we've ever known. Unfortunately, there will always be name calling and labels placed on people. We believe it's affects depend on your attitude. Too often, the name calling isn't correct or true; we shrug it off and move on. Sort of like reading a magazine headline, "President Obama gives birth to baby girl!" Yea, right and you go on about your life.

    We will talk about it later, explaining that the person just didn't know Beth, or understand the situation. Maybe they were afraid of something. We pray for understanding and move on.

    We believe, we know, the affects of name calling depend on your foundational attitude toward people.

  5. I don't feel that those terms have as much effect on us as they do on the user. The person who uses that kind of language sets himself apart as being mean, rude, or just plain ignorant.

  6. Awesome thoughts, Ladies! Thank you so much....Class isn't until next Tuesday, so I would love any other thoughts to share!

    This is great....I will share the students' reactions after the class.

    Keep 'em coming! Love, Paula

  7. What I've found is that people don't always care that the word offends me. I work with kids with autism and other special needs and I adore them. They make my life better. My brother, sister and I all work with kids with special needs. and when you say "that show was so retarded" what you really mean was "that show was stupid/unintelligent/not worth my precious time" and I can tell you without a doubt that none of my kids are ANY of those things.

    The bottom line is that there are over 200,000 words in the English language. I'm asking you not to use one. One freaking word. So drop it. You're intelligent enough to come up with the word you really mean. There's no need to insult me or the kids I love. Use one of the other 199,999 words in the english language.

  8. Hey Everyone, If you haven't seen the video posted by "Ness" in the first comment. I highly encourage you to follow the link and view it. She is an awesome ambassador!

  9. Just wanted to tell you all thank you for your comments. I read sections of them to the class and showed the video clip. I know that it was a huge factor in helping the students see how language reflects our attitudes. Thanks again, Ladies! I so appreciate your time in helping me shape the students' attitudes and actions towards people with disabilties.