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The R-Word

During three years of high school, I have been in Best Buddies, a club where you are paired with a person with a mental disability. I have made so many friends through this club. One of my best friends, David, has a mental disability and he is one of the kindest people I have had the pleasure to meet. When I hear the R-word being used it hurts me because it does not describe him at all. The R-word is not a synonym to how people with mental disabilities truly are.

The R-word is heard throughout the halls of middle schools and high schools everywhere. And these students are using it as a synonym of stupid or dumb. They use the R-word very in everyday conversations and don’t think anything of it, but for the people with intellectual disabilities and their friends and family it means exclusion and loneliness.

Many people who use the R-word use it very ignorantly. The New York Times writer, Lawrence Downes March, writes “Young people especially like it: as a weapon of derision, it does the job. It’s sharp, with an assaultive potency”; the word is very exclusionary and rude to use. They do not know the people that they are putting down when they use it. If a person who uses the R-word became close with a person with a mental disability they would understand how this term is very inaccurate to describe a person with disabilities. They are kind, caring, and just like everyone else; and people with developmental disabilities deserve to be treated the same as everyone else.

The R-word, was defined as less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age. It used to be a medical term to describe people with mental disabilities. However, it is not a term any doctors use any more. In the Huffington Post, Liane Kupferberg Carter writes “The R word has been retired by medical and social service organizations. It’s time everyone else does too.” which perfectly illustrates why people should stop saying the R-word. The term was replaced in the medical field by a more appropriate term and it should be everywhere else too.

Choosing to use the R-word is choosing to exclude people with intellectual disabilities from everyday life and activities that they are deemed unable to do. People with mental disabilities have to deal with this exclusion daily, and they shouldn’t have to. The R-word should no longer be used in any situation.