Handling the "R" word

  1. 1 How assertive are you all about approaching people who use the "r" word? I have a co-worker who is aggressive about it to the point where she nearly got into a fight with a young woman at Target who was going through the housewares aisles calling just about everything other item retarded. I don't bother with those people, because face it, they're clueless and they're going to stay clueless. Years ago, I became incensed with my own husband for using the term retard (our son has autism and learning difficulties, although we have been told repeatedly over the years that the IQ tests that qualify him for an intellectual disability diagnosis can't really be relied on because of some of the issues the autism creates around testing. I suspect this is the case with many of our kids who qualify for the intellectual disability diagnosis- I have met so many people with autism performing above what would be expected relative to their measured IQ). Those reactions- not bothering with the stranger at Target and being appalled by my husband's remarks are probably pretty common. (Oh, and I just want to clarify that my husband didn't call our son a retard. Reading that sentence back, I thought maybe that could be unclear).

    I wonder, too, if others find themselves thinking less of people due to their indiscriminate use of the "r" word. I don't hesitate to speak up if I think the person who uses the term should know better. That includes nurses and other healthcare professionals and anyone who is employed in the education system. I don't care if you're the janitor, you should refer to the students with respectful language and the building principal should include that in all first day on the job behavior expectation talks. What I'll do most often, though, is just repeat what the other person has said, replacing the offensive word with something more respectful. How do you all handle it?
  2. Visit  mercyteapot profile page

    About mercyteapot

    mercyteapot has '20+' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Dev. Disabilities, Health Disparities'. From 'San Diego, CA, US'; Joined Sep '03; Posts: 12,728; Likes: 1,795.

    40 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  nyrn5125 profile page
    1
    Have a family member with severe MR.Have many coworker nurses who do use that word around me. Recently another nurse helping with a pt said this is so retarded( speaking about a thing on the bed frame). The pt in the bed just happened to have mild MR. I looked her dead in the eye and said DO NOT SAY THAT WORD. she felt bad because she uses that word not realizing that it is so insulting/degrading. I know the pt did not hear her but still it should not be used to insult anyone or anything. As far as being making people understand the impact it has.A simple "that's not a good word" lets them know
    virgo,student nurse likes this.
  4. Visit  bookwormom profile page
    10
    In promoting the use of "intellectually disabled", we are substituting one euphemism for another: "retarded" which means slow, ( but which probably was considered kinder than even older terms: "backward", "idiot", "imbecile", "moron").

    "Retarded" sounds offensive because it is often used offensively. But will "intellectually disabled" go the same path?

    I would suggest the use of a syndrome designation. I think the the term "Child with Down Syndrome" sounds more objective and less perjorative than "Mongolian Idiot", which was acceptable at one time.
    softrbreeze, TriciaJ, sharpeimom, and 7 others like this.
  5. Visit  mercyteapot profile page
    1
    Quote from bookwormom
    In promoting the use of "intellectually disabled", we are substituting one euphemism for another: "retarded" which means slow, ( but which probably was considered kinder than even older terms: "backward", "idiot", "imbecile", "moron").

    "Retarded" sounds offensive because it is often used offensively. But will "intellectually disabled" go the same path?

    I would suggest the use of a syndrome designation. I think the the term "Child with Down Syndrome" sounds more objective and less perjorative than "Mongolian Idiot", which was acceptable at one time.
    I do agree with you. Mental retardation wasn't coined to offend anyone, it was coined to describe a condition. It is the way society has used it that has become offensive. Intellectual disability is sure to go the same route, although since it doesn't roll off the tongue as easily, I suspect the "r" word will stick around for quite a while. It is hard to believe, given the stigma the words idiot, imbecile and moron carry now that they, too, were originally coined for purposes that were considered perfectly legitimate at that time.

    As far as the syndrome designation goes, that is the guiding principle of People First language. The only problem with People First language, though, is that one who promotes is typically preaching to the choir, or at least addressing people who want to be in the choir. Sad to say, but lots of people don't feel that way and act as if pointing out the insensitivity of this word is just political correctness run amok.
    TriciaJ likes this.
  6. Visit  virgo,student nurse profile page
    1
    I work with the mentally challenged population, and I personally DO NOT like that word, and I have a good group of co workers whom do not use the word. I do not correct anyone out in pulic, unless they have said something about MY consumers that I have out with me. I do find it offensive and ignorant to associate the word with a mentally challenged person.

    I think it has to do with home training really, and bring able to truely understand what the
    word means, and where the word originates from.
    chadrn65 likes this.
  7. Visit  bookwormom profile page
    2
    I agree that the phrase "mentally retarded" has negative connotations, but I don't think that the words are inherently offensive or ignorant. The designation is still used in certain contexts. Personally, I find the phrases "developmentally delayed" and "mentally challenged" equally euphemistic and equally capable of developing negative connotations.

    However, I applaud you for standing up for the people you work with. In this world, we need to respect each others differences, and that includes not labeling or drawing unnecessary attention to others.
    Squingelle and SoldierNurse22 like this.
  8. Visit  mustlovepoodles profile page
    7
    I don't like to hear someone use the word "retard" or "retarded" in place of the words "stupid", "ridiculous" or whatever. I don't accost s trangers over it, but I have reprimanded my own sister and some of my children's friends. .

    On the other hand, I don't object to the use of the word "retarded" to describe intellectual disability. My youngest son is "intellectually challenged", a phrase i find clunky and misleading--what does that even mean? I could describe him as having Pallister-Killian Syndrome, but I doubt you know what that is (a very rare chromosome disorder, tetrasomy 12p.) Or I can say, "My 16 year old son is profoundly mentally retarded" and I bet you get an immediate picture in your mind of what I'm talking about--a kid who needs 24hr/day constant supervision and assist with all ADLs, right? I will continue to err on the side of being politically incorrect by using the word "retarded" because, at least in my son's case, it conveys a lot of information in one small word.
    Nurse acewa, TriciaJ, AmyRN303, and 4 others like this.
  9. Visit  Rob72 profile page
    6
    this is an aberration of political correctness. "retarded", literally means stunted in growth or development. it applies perfectly to 95% of political actions and better than 80% of, "as seen on tv...!", products.

    it developed a negative social connotation when it became synonymous with "stupid".

    from webster, online:
    stupid
    a: slow of mind : obtuse b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner c : lacking intelligence or reason : brutish
    words have concrete meanings. when we (try to)change them to suit social or political desires, we deconstruct our language, and "retard" our society.

    i, personally, am retarding. i retard ignorance, constrain it with definition, and crush it with will, wit and the light of truth!

    it is so easy to be offended, and so difficult to educate with grace.
    TriciaJ, DragonPurr, sharpeimom, and 3 others like this.
  10. Visit  mercyteapot profile page
    1
    Quote from mustlovepoodles
    I don't like to hear someone use the word "retard" or "retarded" in place of the words "stupid", "ridiculous" or whatever. I don't accost s trangers over it, but I have reprimanded my own sister and some of my children's friends. .

    On the other hand, I don't object to the use of the word "retarded" to describe intellectual disability. My youngest son is "intellectually challenged", a phrase i find clunky and misleading--what does that even mean? I could describe him as having Pallister-Killian Syndrome, but I doubt you know what that is (a very rare chromosome disorder, tetrasomy 12p.) Or I can say, "My 16 year old son is profoundly mentally retarded" and I bet you get an immediate picture in your mind of what I'm talking about--a kid who needs 24hr/day constant supervision and assist with all ADLs, right? I will continue to err on the side of being politically incorrect by using the word "retarded" because, at least in my son's case, it conveys a lot of information in one small word.
    This isn't quite the same thing, but my son has autism. I don't like the term "autistic" when it is used as a noun, as he is "he's an autistic". That certainly isn't his defining characteritic. On the other hand, I don't have any problem with it being used as an adjective. It describes one aspect of who he is... he is also funny, smart, disorganized, rowdy. I know there are others who find the adjective "autistic" as offensive as the noun, though.
    DSPRoof likes this.
  11. Visit  DSPRoof profile page
    1
    We have a lot of young people coming to work for our company so I don't hold it against them that they use the word, I just want them to stop.
    Usually they do of their own accord.
    As for my friends I just ask that they don't do it in public.
    virgo,student nurse likes this.
  12. Visit  NickiLaughs profile page
    4
    The worst thing that ever happened is my Dad used it as slang in my house growing up. And I'm still trying to break the damn habit. I even worked in disabled group homes for a few years. It slipped once,and I got my foot ran over with a motorized wheel chair.
    And it was completely appropriate on her behalf. It hurt.
    SoldierNurse22, KelRN215, Juniper248, and 1 other like this.
  13. Visit  fiveofpeep profile page
    1
    I don't say "retarded" but I used to say "that's so gay," and still find myself saying it occasionally and I feel SO SO SO BAD when it comes out. I'm 23 and pick it up from friends and try to reign it in but it comes out.

    I wouldn't really say anything (especially not publicly) unless they are repeat offenders, because maybe they don't know they are doing it. I bet a lot of times, it's just a habit and like me they are trying to use more PC terms and break the habit and feel bad already.
    Juniper248 likes this.
  14. Visit  Ruby Vee profile page
    4
    Quote from rob72
    this is an aberration of political correctness. "retarded", literally means stunted in growth or development. it applies perfectly to 95% of political actions and better than 80% of, "as seen on tv...!", products.

    it developed a negative social connotation when it became synonymous with "stupid".

    from webster, online:
    [i]

    words have concrete meanings. when we (try to)change them to suit social or political desires, we deconstruct our language, and "retard" our society.

    i, personally, am retarding. i retard ignorance, constrain it with definition, and crush it with will, wit and the light of truth!

    it is so easy to be offended, and so difficult to educate with grace.
    i don't have a family member who is developmentally disabled, intellectually challenged or mentally retarded. consequently i don't know the current buzzwords to describe the condition, and i might be guilty of using the term "mentally retarded" to describe someone who is profoundly challenged intellectually . . . not trying to offend anyone, but trying to describe the situation to someone who needs to know. the next shift, for example. "mentally retarded" used to be the correct and professional way to describe such a person.

    "black" used to be the correct way to describe someone of african descent and whose skin is very, very dark. and then, one day it became offensive as americans of african descent chose to be called "african americans." that term has been used to the point of silliness to describe anyone with dark pigmentation . . . the women from ethiopia traveling through our country with no intention of staying and no grasp of the english language, for example. that woman was ethiopian. the colleague who described her as "african american" was trying to allude to race without being offensive. (race was a factor in her condition.)

    it's all too easy to be offended by someone who had no idea they were being offensive. who had no intention of being offensive. i wish we'd all just try to get along.

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