I just wanted to share with everyone our letter for the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign. We were honored that the Special Olympics asked us to tell our story about how one word can impact a life. Thank you for all your support over these past several months.

Dear Friends:

Like any parent, we love and cherish everything about our daughter Amelia. She is precious to us in ways we can’t begin to describe in words.

That’s why we’re asking people all over the world to join our family in ending the use of the word ‘retard.’ You see, the last time we heard those words, they came from the mouth of a doctor who used them to explain why he didn’t think Amelia deserved the medical care she needs. We were told that because she is “mentally retarded” her life didn’t matter as much as that of another child. We were shocked and frightened and angered. How could this be happening in 2012?

As you can imagine, we fought back and thanks to many of you, Amelia is now getting the medical care she needs. But we’re not going to stop at helping Amelia. The fact is, language affects attitudes and attitudes influence real world outcomes. We want to make sure that everyone understands how dangerous the R-word can be and we want everyone to join the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign this year. We can’t rest while this kind of language is still being used to suggest that any child or any human being deserves less dignity, less opportunity, less justice. We must continue to challenge those around us to care.

For us, the R-word and the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is about life: the life of our daughter Amelia. Please make your pledge to end the word now at www.r-word.org and share this email with your friends and family. I hope you’ll join us for her and for millions of other human beings like her who deserve the new R-word: Respect.

Joe, Chrissy, Joey, Nathan and  Amelia Rivera



8 Responses to Spread the Word to End the Word

  1. Dormico says:

    Awww! Amelia is getting so big! I would be pleased to help spread the word till the end of the word. I’m still in school, and we are taught not to use the word “retard”. Instead, “disabled” or “handicap” is used in it’s place. Amelia is beyond even those words to me. She is a PERSON. A person in need of medical care. She is lucky to have such supportive people in her life, and I wish you all the very best!!

  2. the whole truth matters says:

    I completely agree with the r-word story that you link to. Retarded has been used by the public as an insult just like fatty, idiot, or thousands of other words. Are you asking the general public to no longer use this word or are you asking the medical community to no longer use it as well?

    You said above

    We were told that because she is “mentally retarded” her life didn’t matter as much as that of another child.

    so you are telling the world that the doctor or the social worker said these exact words to you? Or is this what you feel that they meant?

  3. crivera75 says:

    I am telling the world that these are the exact words that were used and written on a piece of paper. I am asking the world and the medical community to stop using the word. There is no reason for anyone to use the word.

  4. Shera Donna says:

    After reading your story I was heartbroken. I have an uncle, (in Heaven now), that had Down Syndrome & I can remember as early as 8 yrs old, I’m 51 now, people calling him “Mentally Retarded” & it made my blood boil. Back then thats what everybody called “it”. Some of my relatives still use the R-word & to this day it still makes my blood boil. A long time ago I started referring to it as “Mentally Handicapped” but I wished people would call it “Mentally Special” because thats what he was & your little Amelia is. I’m so sorry for the way you, Amelia & your family was treated at CHOP & I pray none of my family is ever in that area & is in need of medical attention because I wouldn’t trust those heartless Drs. to so much as put 1 stitch in the little finger of any of my loved ones. I’m so happy Amelia is getting the medical attention she deserves now & you all will be in my prayers contantly. Good Luck in the future & God Bless.

  5. Taylor says:

    Joe, Chrissy, Joey, Nathan and Amelia Rivera,
    I have been trying to contact you regarding Amelia’s kidney transplant via email and would appreciate it if you could contact me at tay_crockett@hotmail.com or at (913) 544-8748 (anytime/anyday). Thoughts and prayers go out to all of you!

  6. VoiceOfReason says:

    Oh my…

    Crissy, you state “There is no reason for anyone to use the word.” Well, what would you suggest that the term be changed to? And what will happen once the general public starts to use that new term in a negative context? History repeats itself.

    They are merely words. It’s the public’s context and use of the words that implies negativity. Changing the words is not going to solve the problem — it’s the mindset and behavior of the public that needs to change. Replace aggressiveness, bullying, and name-calling with patience, love, and calm. Parents should start by being a good example in everthing they do, with everyone. Including blog posts and difficult doctor’s meetings.

    Mental Retardation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_retardation

    Euphism Treadmill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism_treadmill#Euphemism_treadmill

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think you have a valid point voiceofreason, people will just find new ways of demeaning those who are different in this way. I have a Facebook friend who stated in his status that his dog needed an IEP implying that his dog was so dumb he needed an IEP, he thought he was so funny and the words really stung me, yet in other contexts doctors can use the term mental retardation respectfully and it doesn’t bother me at all. HOWEVER ou can’t just dismiss the years of gross misuse and abuse that’s been inflicted through the use of the word retard. It’s become a word that has such heavy emotional weight with the very sound of it, meaning it’s a word that needs to be retired, the time has come. I liken it to the racial slur the N word…such an awful word that has been used to abuse and inflict such pain, it’s beyond the category of “just a word” because of its history of use. It should never be said in any context. But I also wish the campaign to end the word offered a clear cut alternative or two, I really don’t know what to say anymore because I used to use the term MR in a very respectful way, never derogatory. Now I just say “developmentally handicapped” I guess but I’m not sure that too might offend some peopl.

  8. shirley bidnick says:

    The ‘r’ word has to go. Nothing can remove the pain of having a loved one called a –. The term was used at a time when it was acceptable to regard and treat persons with developmental disabilities differently. Now it isn’t acceptable. We need to use new terms and link them to new respectful attitudes and behaviours.

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