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With a few words on each page, "Why Is He Doing That?" explains the many questions typical students may have about students with autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are mainstreamed into general education classrooms. "Why Is He Doing That?" is presented in a way to encourage acceptance, kindness, and inclusion of students with autism with simplicity and love, because we are all different, just like everyone else.


The R-word in Reality

Rachael M Cuellar

    When two people are having a conversation and one person says an offensive remark, typically, the other person will also respond in retaliation. In habit, we choose to say something smart, witty, practical; something to an extent of an insult. When a person finds an appropriate usage of the word “retarded” in a setting of typical individuals, it’s harmless. When a person is in the presence of an individual with intellectual disability, the word retarded is completely out of context, yet is still a poor habit in their vocabulary. In regards, it must be “retarded” to even think of others feelings towards this word. There is practicality in the power of words and brilliance in the compassion of awareness when thinking before speaking.

    In engineering, the word retardant is an adjective defined as “having a slow affect” or “terminating” in appliance to the word flame retardant. In 1952, the noun was adopted as “retardant substance,” which is commonly used as Fire Retardant to explain a function in engineering and computers. Retardant explains the technical structure of chemicals and is correctly used in the term of definition. The word retardant is used as a non-offensive connotation to its’ correct usage form. In music, the word retard is defined to gradually slow at the end of the piece. The word fire retardant and retard in music is used correctly for indicating a definition.  The appropriate indication of the word retard is tolerable because the terms are not abused, misused, disrespected, and shamed. It is not associated to an individual with an intellectual disability. 

    The word first originated in 1895 as a medical term for the Latin word retarder, which means “to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder.” The word retarded is defined in the dictionary as “less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one's age”. As an informal offense, the word is considered “very foolish or stupid.” The word was not used as a derogatory term until the 1960s, which changed the entire connotation of the word. In October 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Rosa Law, which requires the term retarded to be replaced with the politically correct term, Intellectual Disabilities. The word retarded is officially removed from federal records and no longer used in medical terms. Today, the term retarded is replaced because of the negative stereotype as an intellectual disability, special needs, or developmentally disabled. Today, the language change is considered when mentioning a person before the disability, which gives respect to their identity and not the disability. 

    In the past, we called African American descents the N-word and the Japanese the J-word, because these words were acceptable in the timing. Today, the words are viewed as derogatory, insulting, offensive, and looked down upon because the words were not used in a positive way. The word retarded is the same by how the word began: a term used to define a preface with the change of language in connotation, which is alternated by informal speech. The word retarded today is characterized as a stereotype, a word with no praise or positivity. The word is not only offensive to an individual with an intellectual disability, but a family member, friend, coworker, or a person who has been negatively affected by the word. Yes, the bible uses the word “lame” for an individual with a disability or crippled which is another ableist, informal speech. Yes, the word “gay” was first defined as happiness, then the language changed to labeling homosexuals and used also as a derogatory word as an insult. Yes, these two particular words is a poor habit in our usage of vocabulary, but the change caused by awareness has improved.

    The world needs to build new vocabulary to replace derogatory words and understand the correct usage of the word. If it is acceptable to use the word retarded around typical peers, then why is the word unacceptable in front of an individual with intellectual disabilities? The time in decades has changed and today, the word retarded is an exclusion, than an inclusion with the world. When a person decides to use the word retarded, it is how the other person chooses to respond, which determines their character. People don't need to scoff at people in defense to make a point when choosing the phrase retarded. Therefore there is practicality in the power of words and brilliance in the compassion of awareness when thinking before speaking.

Joyfully, Rachael M Cuellar