The One Word That the Autism Community Hates

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.



3 thoughts on “The One Word That the Autism Community Hates

  1. Im so glad i stumbled across your post. I feel absolutly ashamed and embarresed to tell you my story. And i hope you dont judge me to harshly. I need to tell you though, so i could say thank you for making me realize how awful i have been.
    My 14yr old son has Aspergers. Diagnosed 6yrs ago. I feel really awful to be saying this. But i have, here and there called him retarted. I love him more than anything. And i love all his quirks. In my mind when i say it, it is never said to make him feel bad or be mean. In my mind it’s a playful jab. A light hearted stir. And i have been doing this for years well before he was even diagnosed. He has asked me not to do it. But as in my head im not meaning any hurt and i have told him many times i don’t mean any harm, that im just mucking around. I guess i stupidly believed it was a harmless word to use. After reading your blog it hit me, like a high speed crash into a brick wall. Of course it hurts him. I see it now, in his request to stop, in his physical response and in his face and eyes. It was one of my stupid was to make him feel better about having Aspergers. Making jokes about it, laughing and trying to make the differences and quirky stuff something to laugh at, yet be proud of and content with himself. But i see now how wrong that thinking was. I will never say it to him again. I just hope i haven’t damaged him for ever. Epic parenting fail.

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