Follow by Email

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Growing up with the word "retard"

On a beautiful sunny summer day in the grilling summer heat we ran, unsure whether we were afraid of her or making fun of her. At the time I would've been approximately eight or ten years old. There was the retarded girl from down the street chasing us, again. She was at least nineteen years old and to my eyes a fully grown woman. We all knew she was retarded by her size, age difference and odd gait. Playing with her would've been weird. So we ran and laughed and ran, all the while she called out "I just want to play" with a strong lisp.

if only everyone had the good kind of Autism,
oh wait they all pretty much suck. Yeah rain
went back to the group home you know.
 I remember the "retarded" kids in my school. You would only catch brief glimpses of them. They had different lunch times and recess times and you would catch glimpses of them sitting on the play ground not playing, sitting in wheel chairs and it was well, weird. The word retarded was accepted then, used as slang as liberal as the "n word" in the south, it was the lingo. Those kids were scary and mysterious, they were the unknown. This was all before the age of inclusion, before "Rain Man" and jokes about the good kind of Autism.

Fast forward two and a half decades. Another sunny Florida day, it is summer and my boys and I are at the park. Three kids, two boys and one girl, show up without parents (that should've told me something right there). They had to be around the age of ten to twelve. Jonathan voluntarily gets of the swing to approach them (which is a BIG deal for a kid who could've been the first kid to swing to the Moon if mommy's arm would've held out). My eyes shone with pride as I heard him greet them over the roar of traffic "hi guys" he said in a cheerful tone. One of the many wonderful things about J is that he's interested in other children (mostly older children and babies, never his own age group). They are all playing on the climbing/netting ladder thing. I see the girl shooting me looks, like "is this ok"? I can't see anything wrong so I continue to push my younger child in the swing but I get the feeling the kids notice something is up and I continue to watch them closely. Jonathan is sitting with them and then they leave. The timer goes off, it's time to leave. I find him sitting in the mulch at the bottom of the ladder, looking sad. I ask him a few questions but don't really get any answers.

ummmm, I'm sorry, give me just a second to digest that.
The next day after OT J is mad at me for refusing to go to sToys 'r' us. He blurts out "get the fuck away from me kid"! I was shocked but I knew where he'd gotten that from (he would NEVER hear the f word directed at him in our household or anywhere else we'd allow him to be). So I say to him "did those kids at the park say that to you yesterday"? and of course he said "yes" in a low pitiful voice, his giant precious moments eyes brimming with tears. Apparently the world hasn't changed that much.

I have to admit, I wanted to drive back to that park just to check if those children and their parents were there right that minute. I was filled with fury and loathing that someone could hurt him like that. I was also aggravated with myself that I didn't stop them when my mommy-o-meter had been going off. On top of that I was shocked that kids of that age would say those kinds of things, (heck my kids aren't much younger and they'll still ask for Dora the explore on occasion). I was watching them they had spoken low enough to J so that I couldn't hear them,  pretty freaking malicious. If I ever do see them again I'm definitely going to talk with their parents (what good it would it would do is a question I'll have to contemplate later because obviously they DO hear that kind of thing at home).

Yep, until it's your kid
The frustrating thing is that I know all the arguments against political correctness and how stupid they can sound to someone without a child or other loved one who may be impaired. I used to feel the same way. I won't even lie and say that we don't cuss or let something less than PC slip in our household. We are after all just human and so is everyone else.

Since I became a mom to a special needs child these memories and experiences have haunted me. J starts in an inclusion classroom this August, in little more than a month. He was diagnosed at two and a half and had previously gone to a private school for kids with Autism, so this is the first time we're facing this particular concern. I hear the horror stories, the poor boy wearing Dora socks. I remember the kid picking his nose in high school. It would seem that many kids with special needs aren't  aware they are being teased but I can't tell you J got that kids tone. He may have not know the words but he got the drift.

God help me, don't I wish I could do this!
I can only hope that the world has changed for the better and that J will be able to punch one of those kids in the face someday (or at least defend himself verbally). I know having J has changed me. I feel sad for the homeless woman in the park that is suffering with obvious OCD ticks (OCD and Autism do overlap sometimes). She translates directly to fear for J, for his future, for his skills and ability to cope with this world. In the here and now I worry about the times I can't be present, the playground at school, lunch time, and all the uncounted minutes in the day when children find the time to be cruel to each other. I know that I have to let him fall so that he can learn to pick himself up. I cannot hover at the playground waiting for the next offense but next time my mommy-o-meter starts going off I'm going to be casually drifting closer.


  1. I love your blog! I'm the first to speak out when I get the mommy meter going. I had to ask a lady who was staring at my daughter eating ice cream if she knew her because her staring was bugging me. My friend told me to stop but I love humiliating losers!

    1. THANKS! I really do write it to get the "black" out of my soul so to speak but its wonderful to hear that other people have this stuff roaming around in their heads as well. I think people will only learn by having that kind of behavior pointed out. I say here here! I'm telling you nothing will disarm someone like smiling at them :)