The entire purpose of this post is to try to make you feel uncomfortable while reading it. I feel uncomfortable writing it.
The views expressed are completely mine, and any of the links included are done so for further reference, education, and perspective.
I wrote the other day about the word “stupid” being unacceptable in our house (click for more), and that Kaitlyn knows that she is not to use the word. After I wrote, I got to thinking about other inflammatory words or labels that are too much a part of our everyday vocabulary. I use these words more than I should in passing, only to realize afterward what I said; this is not a good thing. I am making an effort daily to eliminate certain words from my vocabulary because there is no place for them.
Retard. Stupid. Idiot. Cripple. Slow (when used in the context of describing a person’s mental acumen). Were those words as hard for you to read as they were for me to write? I hope so. My friend Ryan has a mission to eliminate the use of “normal” when it comes to decribing people, and I am quickly becoming uncomfortable with “normal” as a description for someone (you can check out Ryan’s work here). He is also taking his readers on a journey through a book called The Power of the Powerless by Christopher De Vinck, and his discussion from this past week also deals with uncomfortable labels, and I encourage you to read it here.
Back to the words that made me uncomfortable to write. When did these words become ok? When is it ok to call someone a retard? It is derogatory at best, and it is really mean. It is never funny to call someone a retard, even if it is a laughline in a movie, like The Hangover. What about stupid? How does it make you feel when someone calls you stupid? Makes me feel worthless. Now imagine you are a child. Idiot is the same thing. How about cripple? Do you feel superior when you call the person with the physical disability a cripple? I know in the past I have used all of these words at one point or another to describe someone, and it is not something I am proud of.
I am making a conscious effort to eliminate those words from my vocabulary, and I hope you will, too. Maybe I am becoming more aware of their hurt now because of Kaitlyn’s Asperger’s, or our participation in Miracle Sports, and if that is the case, I am thankful. I look at those words and am disgusted to admit I have used them. I know how I will feel the first time someone refers to Kaitlyn as a retard because her Asperger’s allows her to behave differently than others; I know how I will react when she is called stupid because maybe she has trouble conceptualizing basic math skills, even though she will be intellectually advanced in other areas. I know how I will respond when someone calls her an idiot because she has trouble forming basic concepts, even though she can see all the small details.
I am proud to be joining Ryan in his goal to eliminate “normal” from everyday vernacular, and I would like to add those other words to his list of words that should go away. I think we will become better as individuals and as a society when we begin to eliminate hurtful labels from people, and encourage everybody to reach their full potential and help them overcome obstacles along the way. I am proud of the person that I want to be, and I am proud of the progress I make everyday in becoming that person. I have a great support group helping me everyday in Amber and Kaitlyn, and Ryan has been a tremendous help as well. What I want the most is for Kaitlyn to be proud of the efforts I make daily to become a better person, and the efforts I make daily to advocate for her and everyone else with Asperger’s or autism, or any disability. The worst thing we can do is nothing, and I will not sit around and do nothing.
Today was a big day for us. Today was the Autism one mile fun run and 5K with the proceeds benefitting CARD at FSU. CARD provides support and services to people with autism and their families, and we have already had the pleasure of going to them. Once this run was on the calendar, I circled it for myself (the 5k) and then Kaitlyn wanted to run her first “marathon,” so we did the one mile run together. We caught up with our friends the Spragues at the event, and met some nice new people as well.
The one mile run kicked off at 8:30, and I was just hoping that Kaitlyn would finish in time for me to relax for a minute before the 5k. Kaitlyn exceeded my expectations by a long shot, and she finished just ahead of me in 9:36! Her first race, and not only does she run the entire time, she beats her daddy to the finish line. I have never been more proud or excited to finish behind anybody in anything. The entire time we ran, Kaitlyn had a smile plastered on her face from ear-to-ear, and that just made my day.
Once everybody finished the mile race, it was time for the 5k, and I exceeded my expectations for what I was hoping for, setting a personal record in the process. I guess Amber and Kaitlyn, along with most of the Spragues, did not think I would be finishing as quickly as I did, because they were happily playing in the bounce house when I crossed the finish line. No worries though, Kaitlyn was enjoying herself and playing with some new friends. After the event we all went to Steak and Shake for all you can eat pancakes (9 kids, 7 adults).
The turnout at the event was heart-warming as well. The level of participation was high, even for Tallahassee. I will say this about the running community here, if it appears on the Gulf Winds calendar, there will be people showing up. I am proud to be a part of the running community in Tallahassee. To see that many people run in support of autism awareness speaks to the character of the people in the community, and I hope this event continues to grow each year.
Please check out the following blogs for a recap of their day at the event:
And check out the FSU CARD website at www.autism.fsu.edu.