As mothers of children with special needs, we share a common bond. We are both good mothers and love our children deeply. We take good care of our children and are fine with their abilities and disabilities. While we certainly wish things were different, I doubt that either one of us could really imagine our special needs children as normal. If they were, it wouldn’t change anything about how we feel about them; we love them deeply and that’s that.
Several times in the past year, we have both had incidents were people have made derogatory statements about children/people with mental retardation. When these incidents have occurred, we usually will send an e-mail to each other discussing the incident. It is amazing to me, at which the frequency of these incidents is occurring. It is also hard to believe, that people in 2006, still think it’s “o.k.” to say these things.
Here’s the incident:
My friend went into a guitar place to speak with her son’s teacher after his bass lesson and walked past the front desk. It is a store where they sell guitars and stuff, and lessons are given upstairs. As she was walking by, she overheard a female customer saying, "I swear he looked like SUCH a retard playing that thing! I mean really, I told him, "Ferchrissakes, you look like a MONGOLOID!!!!" She was laughing her ass off. My friend said she wasn’t sure, but she thought she was talking about her poor son. The store owner just kind of mumbled – she really seems like such a nice person. She said she felt like the store owner didn’t know what to say or do. She said she didn’t say anything. And she didn't do anything, but she felt that she should have. Then again, she asked herself, "Why? What would I have accomplished?" Then she asks me, “What would you have done?”
I replied to her that I wasn’t sure what I would have done, mainly because when these things happen, I am so shocked at their insensitivity, that it leaves me speechless. I also responded to her and said that if you substituted the word “gay” and “fag” in the above incident for the words “retard” and “mongoloid” that the entire store would have been appalled at the conversation. People would have been appalled when reading the incident. The story might have been reported, harassment charges might have been filed, the story might have made the news in some areas. If you were to substitute the words, “black” in the above incident, people would have been appalled as well. But because it was the words, “retard” or “mongoloid”, it was somehow, okay.
I am amazed that some people still think it’s o.k. to make derogatory statements about people with mental and physical disabilities. I am amazed that people make statements about people who can’t defend themselves. I am amazed that people don’t understand how easily it can be for anyone to become disabled. I mean, you can get hit by a car and be severely disabled mentally and physically for the rest of your life.
Several months ago, I experienced an incident in the blogging world that had me very incensed. A fellow blogger, who is also a pediatrician, made a derogatory comment about “riding the short bus”. He didn’t seem to think there was any real problem with making such a derogatory statement like this. I was appalled that a pediatrician today could make such a statement and not see anything wrong with it. When I called him on it, he told me to stop reading his blog,that he could write whatever he wanted. Nice. The point isn’t that you can call people whatever you want because you have a blog, the point is that as a pediatrician, a professional, a human being and a father, you would think that someone who have more compassion than referring to those with mental disabilities in a derogatory manner. Aside from compassion, it’s just plain wrong. And then to accept money from these parents for your “professional” services, seems appalling. Can you really expect your mentally disabled child to be treated respectfully and with dignity by their pediatrician if they don’t see any problem with making derogatory statements like that in public no less?
In the end, I told my friend, that we need to come up with a response for people. When you are fortunate enough to have a child born normal, I suspect you don’t imagine what it might be like to have a child who is retarded. But ignorance is not acceptable anymore. It’s also not fair to Dear Son and children like him. He is not any less of a person because of disabilities. And to be referred to as the butt of anyone’s joke is totally unacceptable today.