Man and Woman engaging in playful conversation in a resturant: “ Stop it!… You are acting retarded!”
Man: Over come with laughter
Waitress: “ Miss, My daughter was born retarded. She had many seizures and died.” Waitress walks away, never to return to their table.
Man and Woman: Left shocked and confused.
It has become so common place in our society to phrase like, “ You are so Retard.,” (I cringe as I type the word) or “Stop acting slow.” Or “ You know he rides the short bus.” Having an Intellectual or Learning Disabilty is not a choice or a laughing matter. There are 4.6 million Americans living with an intellectual disability. An ID is defined as a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior (adaptive behavior includes dressing, eating, independent living, self-advocacy), which covers many everyday social and practical skills.
Yet, we still do not yet grasp the power of this word. The word retarded by its very definition suggests academic and physical ineptitude. Historically, it has been used to shame, ostracize, discount, and demean. As a society we have a sordid history of hostility and mistreatment toward individuals living with intellectual disabilities, which continues to this day.
At the time of this article there were 432,132 posts tagged “retard” and 267,625 posts tagged “retarded” on Instagram. In Chicago, a teen with a “mental disability” was tortured for approximately 4 hours by his classmate and 3 other teens. According to Davis disability can act to increase vulnerability to abuse, often an indirect function of society’s repose to disability rather than the disability in itself being the cause for abuse. Being manipulated, abused, and mistreated are real fears and unfortunately experienced by people living with an intellectual disability. Individuals living with intellectual disabilities are in fact 4 to 10 times more likely to be abused when compared to their peers without disabilities. What is even more astonishing is that these abuses are rarely reported. Limited reporting on such atrocities are perhaps attributed to limited ability to communicate the abuse due to the nature of the disability, poor advocacy, fear of retaliation, or simply because the individual does not know, view the behavior, or understand it as abuse.
Every human being deserves to live in an environment where they are free from abuse, cared for, and feel apart of the community that they live and work in. Living with a disability is not a choice however as a society we can choose to end stigmatism, stereotypes, and abuse of people living with intellectual disabilities.
By Priscilla Wright, M.Ed,LPC,NCC
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