“Retarded,” the word once used freely and without pause to describe people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is history. At least, that is the hope of Special Olympics, the worldwide advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Special Olympics launched its campaign, “Spread the Word to end the Word,” on March 3, 2010.
Language is powerful and frames how we see the world and others in it. The use of the word “retard” or “retarded” has become ubiquitous among teens and young adults as a way to describe something foolish – an idea, a person’s behavior-, or as a way to dismiss or taunt someone. While many who use the word deny the intent to mock those with intellectual disabilities, there is no doubt that the word hurts and offends. It furthers the notion that people with developmental and intellectual disabilities do not add value, a previously widely held belief. Special Olympics, a leader for those with Down syndrome and other related conditions, says it is time to tackle this issue once and for all.
The campaign, complete with signing pledges, kits and programs for schools and community consciousness-raising events, is reaching out to youth and others through the use of social media. The goal of reaching 100,000 pledges has been surpassed according to the web site and press releases. Several Colorado schools, including Conifer High School , Cherry Creek, Northridge in Greeley, Palmer in Colorado Springs, and Smoky Hills High School in Aurora participated on March 3 and will continue their educational campaigns. Regis University and Colorado State University hosted information tables on their campuses, offering information on how students can get involved and pledge their support.
“Spread the Word” is the brain child of youth with and without intellectual disabilities who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit last year, held in conjunction with Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho in February 2009. The effort sparks from a passion to promote the positive contributions people with intellectual disabilities make to communities around the world. The simple call to stop using the R-word represents one specific, doable action that symbolizes a commitment to focus on the positive and to make the world a more accepting place for everyone of every ability.
Special Olympics Colorado, established in 1969 and headquartered in metro Denver, provides year-round training and sponsors over 80 competitions at the area and state level in 20 sports for over 1,000 athletes statewide. The Special Olympics State Winter Games will be held March 28-29, 2010 at Copper Mountain Resort in Vail, CO.
Also located in Denver, Mile High Down Syndrome is an organization that provides education, resources and support in partnership with individuals, families, educators and professionals to assure inclusion and enhance independence for people with Down syndrome. Contact for more information concerning programs and support.
Kathryn writes as Denver Disability Examiner, Denver Mobility Products Examiner and Denver Senior Care Examiner. She also speaks on a variety of related topics. Contact for inquiries and to suggest future topics. Select “subscribe” above to receive Kathryn’s articles on a regular basis.