The R word

I have a 10-year-old Son with Down syndrome.  In short, Down syndrome is a genetic condition where there is an extra copy of chromosomal material at the 21st chromosome position.  Instead of the usual 46 chromosomes in every cell, there are 47.  This condition is also known in medical circles as Trisomy 21.  With this over expression of the 21st chromosome comes some unique intellectual challenges, some of which involve a range of cognitive deficits and delays.  The key word here is delay and that is what brings me to today’s topic about the R word.  The R word stands for retard or retarded.  Somewhere over the course of history the word retarded has been mistakenly equated with the word stupid as in “that’s so retarded”.  Webster’s Dictionary defines retard this way: 1. to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment: to impede.  The word retard is a verb, the word stupid is an adjective.  The word retard is a legitimate and descriptive word and has many appropriate uses such as: fire-retardant or paint retardant.  In music, it is often used to signal a slowed tempo in a passage of music.  The bottom line is this: persons with intellectual disabilities have delays but are not stupid.  The reason many of us in the Down syndrome community do not like or use the word retard is because it is not properly used and labels our children as stupid.  Unfortunately, this word is becoming more and more ubiquitous and is uttered by everyone from politicians to celebrities.  More information on Down syndrome can be found here.

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