In 1929 the life expectancy of a child born with Down syndrome was nine years. The average age at death for individuals with Down syndrome increased from 25 years in 1983 to 49 years in 1997.
Currently, the average life expectancy of a person with Down syndrome is 60 years.
This means that, for the first time in history, people with Down syndrome are outliving their parents. Profound medical advancements mean I will very likely…at some point in the future….be entrusting my children to this world.
People use “retard” and “retarded” as insults because there’s a societal norm that says people with intellectual differences are less worthy than people who are intellectually standard issue.
It’s a noble cause and a great starting point; but the omission of a word from your vocabulary means very little if the actions you choose still reinforce the principles behind it.
Good for you if you don’t use the word “ni**er”. But if your white son understands he wouldn’t be allowed to date a black girl, then who cares?
Good for you if you don’t use the word “f*g”. But if there’s no place for a gay man at your dinner table and no place for a lesbian in your heaven, then who cares?
Good for you if you don’t use the word “retard”. But if the life you’re living still leaves room for the word’s relevance, then who cares?
Do you avoid using “retarded” as a descriptor because you believe in the equal worth of people who are intellectually disabled or are you avoiding it because you want to sound socially polite?
Who is your child sitting next to in the lunch room?
Go to the park as an observer sometime. See a kid with a disability? Now find that kid’s parent. I bet you $20 that, unless that parent came with a companion, that kid’s parent is standing alone.
Who are YOU talking to at the park?
How do the hiring practices at your business reinforce the value of intellectually disabled people?
Who are you sitting next to at church?
How are you choosing the chair you wait in at the airport?
This year, I’m not going to ask you to change the world by taking words out of your vocabulary.
I’m asking you to change the world by putting new phrases in.
“Is this seat taken?”
“Do you want to come over after school?”
“How can we commit to diversifying our staff?”
“Want to see a movie on Saturday?”
“Could you help me out with this?”
“What do you like to do for fun?”
For the first time in history, individuals with Down syndrome are outliving their parents. I cannot bear to leave my children behind in a world with an intellectually determined value system that holds no place for them.
Please don’t reduce your vocabulary without also raising your voices.
So many have been waiting so long to hear them.
Spread the word.
To Jennifer, and all of the other parent’s who are worried – I believe that there are good people in the world and eventually this horrible word will be eradicated. I have a daughter who DESPISES the word. Trust me when I tell you this isn’t something I have taught her. She feels this way all on her own. There are more like her out there. Here at PhotosByGlenna I can tell you that I feel privileged and blessed every time I am lucky enough to be able to photograph one of your children.
Written by: Jennifer Robertson