Spreading the Word

Special Olympics, Ending the R-word, Getting Involved

Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness

on May 2, 2013

This year, I put a lot of time and effort into bringing the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign to Framingham State because I am very passionate about the issue. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the event could not happen this year – but mark my words, it WILL be here next year!

Spread the Word to End the Word is a national campaign in partnership with Special Olympics and Best Buddies. Its mission is to make people aware of the many negative connotations that come with saying the word “Retard” or “Retarded.”

Every time I hear someone say it I want to correct them and most of the time I do. However, if I don’t really know the person, it makes it a little more difficult. Ryan has a sister who was born with a form of Turner’s Syndrome and he takes great offense to the R-word out of respect for his sister.

“Just about every time I hear someone say it, I immediately correct them. There are times when I will let it pass because I don’t feel like dealing with the questions and statements that are inevitably going to follow,” said Ryan.

Like most of us, Ryan has encountered people who just don’t understand. They will say things like, “I didn’t mean it like that” or “you have no reason to be offended.” One way to deal with this is just walk away and say, “I tried” or you can handle it they way Ryan does when he says, “my sister hates the word, and takes offense to it.” Once people realize that you have friends or family members with an intellectual disability, they are more likely to respect you not wanting that word to be used.

Although we would love to completely eliminate the use of the R-word, some people just aren’t willing to give it up. But it is not impossible. When I was a freshman in college and was meeting my roommate for the first time we were just getting to know each other and talking about what we like to do. I mentioned I was a huge advocate for Special Olympics and that my biggest pet peeve was when people say the R-word. I told her why I and so many other people take offense to it and she said, “I never thought of it that way, I use it sometimes but I’m going to stop. If you catch me saying it, just remind me.”

That’s what I did for the first few weeks of school. Every time she said “That’s retarded” I would remind her and said “Find another word.” It took some time but now she is even telling people not to use the R-word. Making a difference is not impossible. It just takes a little bit of time.

When people say the R-word, they are essentially referring to something that is unattractive or unacceptable. People with intellectual disabilities take great offense to this. “My sister is is easily the hardest working person I have ever met, and the word “retarded” or “retard” is almost always associated with doing something stupid or saying something stupid. I’ve seen how it directly affects my sister,” said Ryan.

I have a friend named Kamisha. She has cerebral palsy. But she does not let that stop her. She is one of the most well known girls at Malden High School. She helps out in almost every office in the school, manages the Varsity Girls’ Basketball team and is easily the friendliest person in the school.

A few years ago, during my senior year, we had a Spread the Word to End the Word rally. Most people are afraid to speak in front of a large group of people but not Kamisha. She wrote her own speech, got up on stage in front of 75-100 people and spoke about how the R-word personally affects her. She said it makes her feel unimportant and unintelligent. It makes her feel beneath everyone else and everyone who knows her, knows for a fact that this is not true. However, these are the negative associations that come with the R-word. People need to educate themselves about the use of the R-word and realize that it is hurtful and shouldn’t be said.

“It is not socially acceptable to go around saying the N word or using any other racial term, therefore I think it should be the same with the R word. They are all extremely offensive,” said Ryan.

It’s great to know that there are people out there like Ryan who advocate against the R-word. Another person who is involved in Special Olympics and the R-word campaign is Alyssa. Alyssa has been one of the track directors at the FSU Special Olympics for the past 2 years, she has helped me with the Spread the Word campaign at FSU and has also made Spread the Word to End the Word buttons to raise money for Special Olympics.

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Spread the Word 2013 Buttons

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Banner signed by FSU students for Spread the Word 2012

I sat down with Alyssa and we talked about the R-word campaign and how she is involved. Listen to our conversation below!

The world needs more people like Ryan and Alyssa. But if we all work together and don’t give up, we can make a difference!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/65313070″>socialmediaproject2</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user17824671″>Cristina Valente</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

To pledge to stop using the R-word and to learn more about the campaign, visit www.r-word.org. TAKE THE PLEDGE TODAY AND SPREAD THE WORD!

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