Army Community Service
Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation
With a raised hand, several admitted to calling someone a hurtful name.
“I was really mad at him,” said one young man. “I just didn’t like the person,” remarked another.
One youth after the next told a short story of why he or she felt justified in calling someone “retarded.”
The Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP, at Army Community Service, or ACS, is hoping to change these youths’ perception of the “R” word. ACS has joined the national “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, supported by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and other disability supporting organizations.
While it may seem a minor offense, the use of the “R” word is not only hurtful to the person at which the term is hurled, but denigrating and dehumanizing to all individuals with intellectual disabilities. It equates the disability with being stupid, ridiculous, useless or a long list of other negative descriptors.
The terms “retard” or “retarded” have developed into American slang as pejorative terms, with very loose correlation to the actual meaning of the clinical term “mental retardation” from which it is derived. Mental retardation, or the more updated term intellectual disability, describes a condition that more than 4.6 million Americans have.
According to the Arc, a large advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, an intellectual disability is a limitation in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, expressed in conceptual, social and practical living skills. It is a condition caused by genetic, environmental or other health issues, and is generally diagnosed before a child turns 18 years old.
“We’re not just trying to be politically correct,” said Dawn Hatico, of EFMP. “We’re promoting respect of all individuals, with or without disabilities. We want people to know that by using the ‘R’ word in a derogatory manner, we are minimizing the real challenges that people with intellectual disabilities experience, as well as discounting their strengths and abilities.”
Those strengths and abilities can help achieve goals. ACS staff member Tyrone Clark agrees.
“I don’t like the ‘R’ word. When my daughter was growing up, she was called retarded. Now she has two college degrees!”
EFMP has begun its local “R” Word campaign by releasing a series of challenges to military youth. During the next several months, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii family members in grades kindergarten through 12th can develop a slogan, create a poster or painting, take a photograph or even make a video depicting the value of respect.
Youths who enter the contests can win prizes; their submitted artwork will be showcased in different venues.
The entire community is asked to pledge not to use the “R” word, joining more than 309,000 others who recognize those with intellectual disabilities deserve respect, not insults.
March 20, 2013, the campaign culminates in a rally at Schofield Barracks, showing respect for all people.
‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ Campaign
For more details on the challenges, rally or pledge, call EFMP at (808) 655-4ACS (4227) or (808) 438-4ACS (4227). Visit DFMWR at www.HiWMR.com/r-word.