The “R” Word

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The “R” Word

BOSTON (AP) 11/10 – “LeBron James said he was sorry for using the word ‘retarded’ in a post game news conference.” I know it’s been a while since this was “news” but the “R WORD” hasn’t gone away, so it’s still news….current to each of us who has a child with mental “RETARDATION.” I was eager to see if there would be a follow-up broadcast to that comment. Indeed, LeBron later apologized for using the “R” word saying, “If I offended anyone, I sincerely apologize.” I’m pretty sure I can stand in the front of the line with many whose children have special needs and say, “It’s not IF he offended anyone.” He did. When that word is spoken, those of us in that “circle” try to be gracious to spare others embarrassment – but we hear it. And we heard him. The apology would have been better phrased, “To those who care for the special needs population of the mentally disabled/challenged (mentally retarded), I am very sorry for my insensitive comment. I understand my comment may not be understood by those who are challenged mentally, but I do understand that I have deeply offended those who care 24/7 for those with special needs of this kind.” Furthermore, I would love for LeBron (and others who use the “R” word) to offer public service to those who are mentally challenged, to learn what the special needs world of “effort” looks like. Those who have trouble learning, speaking, holding or throwing a basketball or baseball have likely spent hundreds if not thousands of hours and dollars in PT (that is Physical Therapy), OT (Occupational Therapy), and SP (Speech Therapy) only to get to a less than hoped for outcome after many years of hard work. These therapies are not working out to better prepare an athlete after a sports injury, rather these therapies are helping the patient to learn to do some of the very things we take for granted. OT helps those who are mentally slow to learn to use their fine motor (fingers and hands) skills for something as noble and simple as feeding themselves. PT was very helpful in teaching my son to balance because he couldn’t sit up on his own – that took a good year and a half to accomplish that one skill. ST was something that took some 12 years in the making to get my son to a point where he could make and form words. Just 12 years. Yes, all those things took place at the rapid speed of what Webster calls retarded: “slow or limited progress.” Many who are “mentally challenged” or “retarded” have worked like an athlete to achieve little to no recognition; instead they’ve earned the cheers and applause of their parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, (and some family and friends), as they accomplish the mundane. There is also another group who’s worked hard and I commend and applaud those caring for those with special needs. May you “go the distance” with grace and dignity – because I know it’s not with ease or comfort! And JFYI – I’ve waited over 30 years to write this – and it’s written with hope to initiate change in how the “R” word is used. One who knows, Cindi Ferrini

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