I am starting to change things up on the podcast. I wanted to start doing some Q&A style episodes because I have been talking about so many topics I find valuable, but there are so many questions I get that I just don’t even cover. So, I thought for a while I would just answer your questions, anything you are struggling with, going through, or trying to make sense of. If you have a question, go to asdparenting.com/question or jodywarshawsky.com/question

On this Q&A episode of the podcast, I am responding to a question I got on Instagram that was wonderful. It’s all about how offended we are when we hear the R word. In the special needs’ arena, that is very hurtful. I have a lot of thoughts about this because it’s something I’ve struggled with over the last few years, and I’ve finally come to some peace with it. We have to process through all the feelings that come with that because it’s inevitable. It’s all around us. So, I hope you will get a lot out of this. I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well. It’s isolating being a special needs parent, and when we hear ignorance that comes at us or around us from people that we love, it’s a really tough pill to swallow. I think we all have a different version of this or a fear of this happening. If we can process through something before it happens, we will be better prepared at our response to it.  

Instagram Question From a Mom

“I have an 8-year-old daughter with special needs, and I have a brother-in-law that continues to use the word retard. It makes me cringe anytime I hear it in a show or movie let alone someone I know and care about saying it with no regard. I spoke up the other night, and his response was that I was just being too sensitive and it’s just a word. I replied with how demeaning it is for a group of people that can’t defend themselves. He said again that I’m being too sensitive. How do you respond when someone uses the word or really has little to no care of how it affects you?”

Do We Say Anything?

We all have it. We all are in the situation where a group of our friends or family, or we are at an event and people throw in that word as a joke or to emphasize their point or just making fun of someone. We are just going about our day, we hear that word, and it takes our breath away, but so many times, we are like “do we say something?” “Do we let it go?

A couple different situations have happened to me with this type of incident. A close friend of mine threw around the R word in her jokes a lot. I didn’t know if she was even thinking about what she was saying, but I wouldn’t know because I never said anything to her. What I started to notice was that she said it a lot. I never noticed this about her before Remy was born, so it started to make me think, did she start saying it recently or did I just start noticing it when it began to affect me? 

I spent time trying to figure out how to respond. I finally decided when after hearing that word 6 or 7 times in the course of a day to say something. I said, “I hear you use the R word a lot. I know you don’t mean it but it’s hurtful.” She said, “I’m so sorry. How do you think I can stop?” I said, “just asking is a really good start. 

The point is that if we can just get people to think about what they say, most of the time their behavior will start changing and that will affect people around them. I always think about this word because it’s a word that I used to use. I’m pretty sure I did because everyone around me did. But I didn’t recognize that it was offensive until Remy was born. I started to look at people that were different from what I was used to and I started to see how words hurt.

We Have To Be Compassionate First

We have to have compassion for the world. The world and their ignorance. I know what it’s like to be ignorant and it wasn’t done on purpose. If we can give compassion, that’s what we will get. Whatever we put into the world is what will come back to us. If we hear the R word being used, and we are so offended, and think it’s so rude, and put so much emotion behind it, we aren’t giving what we want in return. We are putting a judgement on a person and think they don’t respect us, even though they might not be aware that their words have that much power. If we want them to accept our children, us, our family, we first have to give them the same thing we want from them.

How To Approach Someone  

There are two ways to approach a person. You either say something or you don’t. You have to make that decision. You should say something, only if you know they don’t mean to offend you. It can be used as a joke or a weapon. If it’s used to intentionally hurt your or someone you know, you might want to say something, but that could be a recipe for giving them what they want. They want a response or a reaction. If someone approaches you like that or causes that, walk away, turn around and don’t engage. I have regretted it every time I engage with someone that intends to do that.

The other kind of engagement I would encourage is the kind where someone doesn’t mean it, or are joking. Make sure to do it at a time when it’s just you and them so it doesn’t embarrass them in front of other people. Keep it simple and short. Try not to be accusatory because you want your message to come across. When you make it about you and say “I feel…” it’s received so much better. More cases than not, it should be received pretty well. If it’s not, let it go after that. You’ve said your peace. If the person responds negatively, then you can put boundaries up and that’s perfectly okay.

It’s Just A Word

The R word means different things to different people. I know for myself that the word didn’t bother me, because I didn’t have anyone in my life that had special needs or people telling me it was offensive. Now that word holds a different meaning to me because it feels like a personal attack and I want to defend her. I want to challenge you to make that word as neutral as possible. If it’s neutral, it can be used as a weapon to hurt you. The more it hurts you, the easier a target you become to those people that are trying to hurt you. If you can look at it as if it’s just a word, and send them love, and understand that’s just ignorance, then it’s not going to steal all of your energy.

It’s just a word, and our job is to advocate as best as we can, and give what we want in return. That’s love, acceptance and understanding. If we can give that to people that are ignorant, maybe we can give that to our beautiful children.

If you would love to hear my thoughts, please send me any questions you have!  


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