Why the battle against the ‘R-word’ is personal to me

*Warning this will contain the ‘r-word’ in full as I cannot explain my point otherwise*

The word ‘retarded’ is often still used in the USA, not only by the general public, but by medical professionals. As a result, parents, carers and people with disabilities have started to battle against the term. Thankfully the UK has not used the term ‘retard/retarded’ for many years. Well unless you were at my high school…

The bullying first began when I was 12 years old. My Granny had died of Cancer just three days into my first term at a brand new school. I had a few days off to go to the funeral (well I didn’t but that’s another post to come!) but was thrown straight back into school life. I cried a lot. My peers noticed and the first, more petty bullying began. It was an outburst of my Tourette syndrome that gave me the ‘retard’ label from my peers. I was sat on a wonky wooden stool in a science lesson when suddenly I shouted ‘I’M RIDING A PONY’. I was mortified as I had kept my involuntary outbursts quiet until this point. The girl next to me laughed at me then told the whole class what I said.

‘HA HA WHAT A RETARD!!!’

and thus it began. I tried to sort my problem with the school but I was told in front of my main bullies that if I stopped acting ‘odd’ they would stop picking on me. I didn’t know it then, but the reason I was acting ‘odd’ (I had no awareness that I was ‘odd’ until this point) was due to undiagnosed autism. Apparently an interest in buses, trains and rabbits was not normal.

Over the next four years, the bullying never ceased. By this point most everyone was involved. Even my brother who had recently joined the school was chastised for being ‘the retard’s brother’. I don’t really know when I noticed that no one called me ‘Lucy’ any more (except my small group of acquaintances) but instead I was ‘the retard’. One day in a corridor, a girl bumped into me and said ‘oh sorry’ then turned round to me and said ‘Oh it’s just the retard’ then went about her business. I left school after a nervous breakdown on the advice of my psychiatrist, but sadly the label stuck in my mind.

I was 15 then, 27 now and only in the past year have I managed to convince myself I AM worth something, I AM a good person and I am most definitely NOT a ‘worthless retard’. The word retard(ed) hurts everyone it is used on and it needs to stop. I fully back the campaign in America to have the word withdrawn as a medical term as no one deserves this vile label. Oh and if any of my bullies read this, I didn’t become a bus driver after all, I’m a university student studying Psychology.

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