To members of the autism community (whether they are family and friends of autistics or autistics themselves), there is one word above all others that systematically creates frustration, anger, and sadness. I’m sure you’ve encountered the use of this word frequently in your life. Modern culture tends to dictate its use as acceptable, and in most cases, funny. I’m sure by now you can guess which word I am referring to. The word that I am referring to is “retarded”.
Even before I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, I heard that word used frequently. Its usage was very common within the public schools that I attended throughout my childhood and teenage years. It was used to describe things that a person didn’t like, things that people found to be stupid, or also in reference to a situation that someone found frustrating. Not once in my twenty one years of life have I heard the word used in such a way that it follows its true definition.
“Retarded”, according to Merriam-Webster, means “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. However, it is often used in a derogatory fashion which causes members of the autism community to be hurt. This word DOES NOT mean “a way in which to describe something that you do not care for (such as a rival football team)”. This word DOES NOT mean “something that is annoying”. Use of the word “retarded” in such a way only shows your ignorance and lack of respect for those with disabilities. It makes us feel like we are less than human, despised by others, and worthless. There is absolutely NO reason to use this word in any way other than its valid medical definition. Improper use doesn’t make you seem cool, it just hurts others and shows that you do not care one bit.