Use Another Word – Ellen Seidman {special needs}

{Are you new here?  This is part of a series of guest posts on special needs.  Read here for more info and feel free to share your story here.}


I met Ellen at Blissdom last year.

She bought me a breakfast muffin and a coffee…which is basically the way to my heart.

But really, you know those people you meet and you just think: “she’s the real deal.  no messing around.  genuine article.”

I love people like that.


Her blog?

Oh, you know, just one of Babble’s Top 50 Mom Blogs.

No biggie.

But that’s what happens when you’re honest and real and unafraid.

People sit up and take notice.

They can’t help it.

Ellen has found herself the unappointed spokesperson for special needs advocacy…and she may not have set out to do it intentionally…but she’s earned every bit of it.

* * * *

Dear Person Trying To Convince Me That There Is Nothing Wrong With The Word Retard,

I read your comment in which you pointed out that there is nothing wrong with using the word retard, as long as it is not directed against a person with disabilities. You might have noticed that my blog is dedicated to a boy named Max. He’s my kid. He has cerebral palsy and cognitive delays. He kicks butt.

I do not want him growing up in a world where people refer to people or things as “retarded.”

It’s hard to believe you’d dig in your heels after I and many other parents out there have pointed out how demeaning the word is to our children and all people with intellectual disabilities. That little group called The Special Olympics? They’ve created an ENTIRE CAMPAIGN against the words “retard” and “retarded,” called End The Word. Hmmm….

I know, you’re going to come right back at me and say, “Don’t you understand? I would never use the word against a person with disabilities! But there is nothing wrong with saying stuff like ‘My boss is a retard because he’s always forgetting what he told me to do!’ or ‘It is so retarded that I left my phone in the fridge.’”

BUT: It’s still wrong. When you describe incompetency as “retarded,” it connects incompetency with people who have intellectual disabilities, and perpetuates the idea that they are stupid. As if my child doesn’t have enough stereotypes to battle in this world. Don’t fool yourself: The more the word “retard” is in circulation, the more some people will continue to use it as a slur against people with disabilities, and see nothing wrong with it.

Yes, once upon a time it was common to describe people with disabilities as “mentally retarded.” But no longer. That little group called The United States Government? In 2010 it banned the term “mental retardation” from all federal health, education, and labor laws and replaced it with “intellectual disabilities.”

And, OMG, spare me your brilliant observation that phrases like “flame retardant” still exist.

There are plenty of other words for calling someone (or a situation) stupid, words that don’t demean an entire population of people.

Freedom of speech can suck it.

Use another word.

* * * *

And this is where I stand and applaud…and then look around and awkwardly sit back down hoping no one notices.

Because I still find myself falling into the familiar.

As much as I hate the word, I hear it coming from my own lips sometimes.

Old habits are hard to break they say.

It’s a total struggle…and I love that Ellen reminds me of it.

Because people with disabilities…of any kind…are NOT stupid.

They are NOT lazy.

They are NOT imperfect.

They are just different than you…but that isn’t something that’s to be made fun of.

You would no more stand for making fun of someone for their skin color…we have no control over what color we were born…so therefore why should it be okay to make fun of someone for their inability to walk???  or speak clearly???  or hear???

I don’t even need to elaborate, do I?

In conjunction with each series, we also host a fundraiser for a  related cause.

In this case, I’ve chosen the Free Wheelchair Mission.  They provide the gift of mobility to people around the world.

Life Changing.


And now through October 31, any amount raised is MATCHED through FWM underwriters.

Because we mamas of special needs move mountains for our babes…whether it be speech/occupational/physical therapies…equipment…special classes…we make it happen.

Let’s help others on the other side of the world be afforded some of those resources too.

It’s the right thing to do.

If each person who visited this site gave just $1, we could provide HUNDREDS of wheelchairs.

This is the last week of our fundraiser!!!

Let’s make it happen.

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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    I also HATE the phrase “ride the short bus”! My son has ridden the short bus, SO WHAT!!!! And it is so hurtful and demeaning!