Spread the Word

 

Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  A man with a vision so great, and a dream so strong that he changed the face of America. His views of courage, truth, compassion, dignity, respect and unconditional love still resonate throughout our great country today, except perhaps when it comes to those with special needs.

Yes, our treatment and acceptance of individuals with special needs has come a long way over these past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. For example, the movie industry continues to portray individuals with special needs as “retarded.”  For those of us who work with those with special needs, this word, the “r-word” is degrading and insulting.  It reinforces stereotypes that are untrue and hurtful.

In February 2009, the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign was created.  This campaign has been influential in using people first language and to show others how hurtful the “r-word” is to those with special needs.

In October 2010, Rosa’s Law removed the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policies and replaces them with people first language such as “individuals with an intellectual disability.”  This law is a significant milestone to promote people first language and acceptance for all people with intellectual disabilities.

Using positive language is important.  The way we talk and the words we choose say a lot about what we think and value.  In his famous, I have a Dream Speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”   As a society, we must move forward with our thinking and views of those with special needs. We must pledge to be advocates for the acceptance and equal rights for EVERYONE.  We must work towards creating an environment with positive language, an environment of love and acceptance for EVERYONE.  Take the pledge with me.  Spread the word to end the word in order to show courage, justice, dignity, respect and unconditional love – just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

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