Spreading the Word

Special Olympics, Ending the R-word, Getting Involved

Kamisha’s perspective on the R-word

Remember how I told you that I still keep in touch with many of the people I have met in the Special Education classes at Malden High. Well, Kamisha is one of them. She is one of my good friends and we keep in touch throughout the year through Facebook and some texting.

Kamisha is probably one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She is motivated and kind and is always willing to lend a hand. Kamisha works in a number of offices in the school. She helps out in the athletic office and gets mail for teachers, files papers when needed in the main office and she is the manager for the Varsity Girls’ Basketball team.

She is fearless and knows that even though she may have to overcome more obstacles than the rest of us – there is nothing she can’t do if she puts her mind to it.

I told Kamisha about my blog and she was so excited! She immediately offered to help me in any way that she could. I told her that I was going to write some posts about the R-word and asked her to make a video for me about how the R-word makes her feel.

I hope that after hearing how the R-word affects Kamisha, those of you who use the word will stop and those of you who don’t will help Spread the Word to End the Word.

Kamisha from Cristina Valente on Vimeo.

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Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness

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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One Step Closer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an announcement to make! We are one step closer to ending the R-word! Last week, Florida passed a bill that would eliminate the use of the term “mental retardation” from all state laws and replace it with the term “intellectually disabled.”

By a unanimous house vote, Florida has now joined 43 other states who have also eliminated the outdated term.

“Sometimes the most simple of bills can be the most monumental,’’ said Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach.

Moira Rossi, from Jacksonville, Florida has Down Syndrome and says the term “mentally retarded” makes her feel sad. Moira helped lead a group of supporters to pass the legislation at Florida’s state Capitol. Supporters say that the term is outdated and has gained negative stereotypes – which is in fact true.

Saying someone is “mentally retarded” even in medical terms still has negative connotation in everyday language. Along with the 43 states that have already eliminated the term from their state laws, President Obama ended its use in Federal law back in 2010.

Our biggest step now, is working towards ending the R-word in everyday speech.

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Spread the Word to End the Word

March 6th marks this years’ national campaign for Spread the Word to End the Word. This campaign is a major way to spread awareness about the derogatory use of the words “retard” or “retarded.” This outdated medical term comes with extremely negative connotations. Over the years the “R-word” has unfortunately become a part of everyday language to mean “stupid,” “slow,” “dumb,” “annoying” and any other negative description.

But, people with intellectual disabilities are not any of these words. They are amazing, loving, caring and happy people.

When ignorant people use the “R-word” they are offending millions of people word-wide with intellectual disabilities as well as their families, friends and supporters.

Noah and Caleb’s 2 sisters have down syndrome and when their family woke up to find that their house had been vandalized with the word “retards,” Noah and Caleb decided to take a stand for their sisters.

Watch this video and take a stand against the “R-word.”

 

Pledge online at www.r-word.org today and help eliminate the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

Take the Pledge

Photo Credit: http://www.r-word.org

What you are doing, today and everyday to Spread the Word to End the Word?

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