‘While everyone was making funny faces and taking photos, I heard her say it. The R word.’: Special needs mom pushes friends for inclusive language

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“The chips and salsa were being passed around our table of friends at our favorite restaurant.

It was girl’s night. Jokes were told, stories were shared and laughter probably echoed all the way to the kitchen.

And then it happened.

While everyone was making funny faces and taking pictures, I heard her say it.

‘Omg, you look like a r—rd!’

The laughter continued from you and our friends for a brief moment.

Until you all glanced over at me.

I wasn’t laughing.

Tears began to fill my eyes and I could barely get the words out.

‘Please don’t ever use that word again.’

As a mother of a son with an intellectual disability, it breaks my heart every time I hear an insensitive comment about someone’s IQ or cognitive ability.

The term ‘mental retardation’ was replaced with ‘intellectual disability’ for a variety of reasons.

So, when I heard it said in front of me, among friends, it was hard to keep it together.

When I eventually gathered myself, we talked about why this word is so degrading and hurtful.

Why it’s disrespectful.

And offensive.

Not just to me and my son.


I also shared why it’s important to teach our children to never use this word.

There were apologies and more tears shed as we ended our night.

There was a valuable lesson learned that day over dinner.

Words are powerful, my friends.

And it’s up to us how we choose to use them.

‘That’s so r—rded.’
‘You look like a r—rd.’

Saying these kinds of things is NOT OK.
Calling ANYONE a r—rd is NOT OK.

Let’s choose to use words that spread love and not hate.
Let’s choose to be respectful and include others who may look or act differently than us.
Let’s be mindful of the words we use and realize the impact they can have on others.

Let’s promise to make a conscious effort when speaking and to not allow this word in our conversations or in our homes.

Let’s start a ripple effect of taking it completely out of the vocabulary we use.

Change starts with us.

And there’s no better time than now.”

Special needs mom talks a walk with her autistic son while they hold hands
Courtesy of Christina Abernethy

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Abernethy of Love, Hope & Autism. Submit your own story here and besure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Christina here:

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‘I notice the lump in my throat getting bigger. I fight back tears as my sons stare at me wide-eyed. I pray God will help me carry all this weight.’: Mom with anxiety urges ‘life is too short, throw in the towel’

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