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I Was Shocked by the Use of the Word Retarded by a Professional Today

May 29, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 168

I just came home from a doctor's appointment that left me feeling confused and a bit stunned. I was having a minor procedure done. While the doctor was conducting the procedure, he asked me what line of work I was in. I told him I had been a special educator for 20 years. His first comment was, "Bless you!" When I told him that most recently I had worked with children with Autism, he said, as many other people I encounter do, "What do you really think is going on with that? Is there really this explosion of Autism?" I replied that there does appear to be a steep increase in children diagnosed with Autism and that I did not know the answer as to why because I believe it is probably a combination of things. He said, "I had this friend in med school that was very awkward socially and a bit odd but we were friends and we liked to hang out and I'm sure he's probably got Asperger's". I replied that there are several people from my past who would probably have been given that diagnosis if they were young now, too, but that it didn't really matter because they were high functioning adults who held down jobs and had families of their own.

I told him that my previous job had been working with kids that were on the more severe end of the spectrum, in a self-contained environment at a public school. He then said to me, "Tell me, does it really make a difference? Do the really retarded kids ever get any better?" I have to say I was a bit aghast that a young doctor in a cosmopolitan area had just used the word "retarded". My answer to him was, "Absolutely, it makes a difference!" He questioningly said, "100% of the time"? I replied, "Well no, not with the financial constraints and all of the legal mumbo jumbo that we have to deal with. Early intervention and parental involvement are key factors in educating children with significant disabilities". He then brought up how asinine it was for school districts to be funded by property taxes and how that really lent to inequalities in education. I agreed with him and expressed how frustrating it is to try to work in a system with so many flaws, where the focus is often on saving money rather than what is best for children.

As he was finishing the procedure, he said, "You know when I was in second and third grade we had a retarded boy who we played with in the neighborhood. He was just one of us but I don't know what ever happened to him." Then the nurse chimed in and said, "Well when you're young like that you don't really notice differences as much. It's not until kids get a little older that they tend to start making fun of their peers and exclude their peers." Again, I could not believe what I was hearing and I must confess that I did not correct his word choice. In other environments, I have told people that it is inappropriate to use the word "retarded" because many people, including myself, find it offensive.

I sat in the car afterwards reflecting upon why I did not correct his word choice and tell him that I found his use of the word, "retarded" offensive. Was it because he is a doctor and I am teacher? Was it because he was performing a procedure on me and I did not want him to do something wrong if I confronted him? Was it because he has more education than me and I thought he should know it was inappropriate? Was it because this was the first time I met him? I think it was probably a combination of all of those factors and I know I missed an opportunity to educate someone who obviously needs to be educated. Has anything like this ever happened to you before? How have you handled it? What do you say to people you do not know personally about their choice of language?

I am a special educator who writes a blog for parents of children with special needs about information on advocating for your child with special needs as well as tips on educating and parenting your child with special needs. I strongly believe that parents and teachers must work together to get a quality education for children with special needs.The "world" of special education is often confusing and difficult to navigate because of the complexity of the education system and all of the laws surrounding it. Please visit my blog and share your thoughts at, http://www.whatisiep.com.

Source: EzineArticles
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