Retarded is not a bad word.
adjective *dated offensive*
less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age.
“Special Needs” is a more recent term (that has replaced retarded, along with many others) to describe anyone with more complex needs than the average person, health-wise or mentally.
My daughter falls into this category.
The other day I was at church, surrounded by people I know and love. One of the ladies began making fun of someone who was “special.” I was caught so off guard that I thought, “Surely she is meaning that in some other way. Surely I misunderstood.”
I am sure she had no idea the power of the words her heart was speaking. I’m sure that she is so numb to this way of operating that it never occurred to her that she was making fun of a group of people that included my child.
I got a message later that day from another lady who was in the room, apologizing for any hurt those words may have carried into my heart. She followed the message with a proposal to change “special needs” to “exceptional needs.”
The problem has never been the word. Although I so very much appreciate the other lady reaching out to me in concern and care, it put a spotlight on the real issue.
If you were to describe my daughter, retarded or any of these words, would be an appropriate definition.
How many times are we going to change the word?
Retarded became “dated and offensive.”
Special is becoming “dated and offensive.”
The real issue is our hearts.
How do you view people that are not like you?
Do you use the term to demean them?
Do you use it to kindly describe, or do you use the term to tear them down and make others feel less than you?
Do you use it to make yourself look better?
Do you use it to be hateful to someone else, to point out their flaws?
Do you use the term jokingly, without thought of the people you are speaking of?
The solution never has and never will be new words. Someone will just demean the next word that is presented. The problem is in the heart.
Be a voice for good. Speak up for those who can’t speak. Gently remind others that their words are powerful. Speak truth, not hurt.
We are called to love everyone.
Romans 13:9 “love your neighbor as yourself”