Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sticks and Stones

We all know words can hurt. In actuality it's the implied meaning and attitudes behind those words that truly drive deep into our soul. Everyone has at least a few words that rip open jagged wounds of past experiences allowing raw emotions to bleed and crust over.

I invite you to listen to this story on NPR.

It's not about being politically correct, it's about being considerate. It's about owning your words and understanding their ramifications. It has taken me over a year of my own journey to understand that it's not about the intent of the word but of its perception by the people it hurts. It's also about educating yourself and being open to feedback. There are quite a few things I say that hurt people. All it takes is that person to say "It hurts me when you say [this] and let me tell you why."

So let me tell you this: It hurts me when you say "retard" or slap your hand on your chest when you do something silly. It hurts me when my kids are called "autistic," "slow," "mute," "special," "handicapped," etc. Not to mention it hurts them.

My children have neurodevelopmental disabilities. You can't separate them from their disabilities, because their disabilities are a natural, intricate part of who they are. But their disabilities don't define them. Their disabilities don't lessen them as human beings.

As one gentleman stated in the story: "'Changing the word could possibly make it better,' ... 'But also you got to change the attitudes. You know, because the attitudes is not changed, the word is not really going to matter.'" (Look past the grammar errors and focus on the insight. What comes from the heart matters more than something that comes as part of standard word processing software.)

So I encourage you to reflect about your attitudes, and no, not just about disability. It's not pleasant coming face to face with some of those lingering perceptions buried deep within, but it's worth it.

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