Today while doing some Christmas shopping at Toys 'R Us, Shawn pointed out this poster to me in the checkout line:As the parent of a special needs child, I have grown a pretty thick skin when it comes to words. What's politically correct to say? What's the proper terminology? What's accepted language in this day and age? Can I use the word "retarded" to describe my child? Can others? Personally, I would not use the word "retarded" to describe Clare. We have no measurement of her IQ. I don't know if she actually falls in the lines of retardation. But she is delayed. She is slow to learn. She is not doing many things that are age-appropriate. So I would not be surprised if someone else used the word "retarded." (In a professional capacity, of course!) After dealing with Clare's heart issues, hearing that she is retarded is definitely not the worst of what we've heard. I will take that any day over hearing some of the stuff we have heard regarding Clare's heart.
Yet I can understand how "retarded" has become politically incorrect to say. People use the word as slang now. It is used as an insult. But I feel we are now bending over backwards to find the right words to say. I am not allowed to refer to my son as "normal" because it implies my daughter is not. I AM allowed to say that Jamie is "typical," but then what do I call Clare? Atypical? And I have to make sure I am clear that Jamie is only typical of his peer group. And Clare is typical of hers. Am I permitted to use the words "special needs" anymore? How about "cognitively delayed?" Shawn and I personally thought that "genetically-challenged" sounded appropriate. Better than "differently-abled." Are you kidding me??? Part of it makes me laugh because it sounds so ridiculous. But another part of me wonders why we can't just say it like it is.
I know Clare is not normal in many ways. She is not typical of other children her age. I do not need a poster using the words "differently-abled" to make myself feel better about my child. You can refer to one of my children as "normal" and the other one as "special." It does not hurt me or offend me to hear those words used concerning Clare. They're just words. And it's the truth! Clare does have special needs. Yet I do love it when someone tells me Clare is acting like a normal kid. Whether it's because she is throwing a temper tantrum, throwing her food, refusing to take a nap or whether it's because she is chatty to all she meets, loves to play with baby dolls, and likes having her fingernails painted. When I question one of her doctors or grill a fellow mom about what other children Clare's age are doing, I am happy to hear that Clare is exhibiting "normal" behavior. That's the stuff that reminds me to treat Clare like a normal kid. To not use her "abnormality" as a get-out-of-jail-free pass. To not let her get away with things because she is not a typical 31-month old. To not just say, "Oh, she has Williams syndrome," and, therefore, excuse her behavior. I am not doing Clare any favors by making excuses for her. She may be "differently-abled," but that does not mean she is unable. Or is that helpless, incompetent, inadequate, unfitted.... oh, who knows anyway?