“Stop Calling My Son a Retard”: One Mom’s Mission

“Stop Calling My Son a Retard”: One Mom’s Mission

Blogger Ellen Seidman is sick and tired of hearing the word “Retard,” because every time people use this word as an insult, they are implying that her son Max (who is brain-damaged and has Cerebral Palsy) is incompetent, stupid, and worthless, G-d forbid.

Honestly, I don’t think that so many of the JewishMOMs reading this are throwing around the word “retard.” But what about our children? We must teach our children that the “R” word is not allowed in Jewish homes under any circumstances!

G-d creates every soul with a unique purpose and children like Max are among the most elevated souls that exist. We need to remind ourselves and our children of this.

Don’t miss this powerful video about Max. This made me cry.
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9 comments

  1. “because every time people use this word as an insult, they are implying that her son Max (who is brain-damaged and has Cerebral Palsy) is incompetent, stupid, and worthless, G-d forbid”

    This is like saying that calling someone crippled is saying that they are worthless mistakes. I’m not suggesting we label people by their limitations, but suggesting that an apt description (retarded) is akin to total disqualification is more offensive than the term itself.

    To be retarded is to be slower than average. It literally means held back. The real problem is that so many people think that being held back is so terrible when in reality it is not. Brain damage, cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, ADHD, and other learning and/or developmental disabilities are all very real. We need not shy away from their existence; but appreciate everything else that is the complex make-up of a Tzelem Elokim.

    People with mental retardation are still people. Don’t make their acceptance and self worth dependant on what YOU choose to call them

    • JewishMom

      thanks for your comment.

      From the examples she uses in the video she made, it appears that this mother is referring not to the nonjudgmental use of the word “retarded” to describe an individual, but rather when people use the word “retard” or “retarded” clearly as an insult.

      For example, she is not talking about a statement such as “This child is mentally retarded.” Or “This is a school for retarded children.”

      But rather, she is offended by clearly negative statements such as
      “You are such a retard, you never get anything right!” or “Stop being a retard.”

  2. Lisa Yeoman

    I am a Jewish mom and teacher with a beautiful son who has Downs.
    I often have to stop in the middle of class to explain to a student why I personally
    Don’t want them to use the word retarded.

    Your video moved me to tears.
    Your son Max is so beautiful.
    You obviously love him so much and give him every
    Opportunity in life

    In solidarity
    Lisa Yeoman

  3. Savta Ima

    Ok folks, I need to express myself here: First, this video was a proud demonstration of a mother’s appreciation for her child as a perfect and beautiful human being, which I can see Max is, and all the more thanks to his Mom’s love and acceptance.On the other hand, it irks me to no end to have people attempt to play the role of thought and speech police. You know, where you end up saying, “Man, you can’t say anything anymore!” WE have people in the media who slip up in ways that are too subtle to even catch, being suspended and sent to sensitivity training. Such as the sports journalist who recently commented that a certain new basketball star of obvious Asian LIN-eage was a “chink” in the armor of the other team. I definitely believe this guy would NEVER have deliberately been IDIOTic enough to have meant anything by that, and jeopardize his standing. Which segues very nicely into my next point: Language is a fluid and evolving entity, other than Lashon haKodesh. Words change their implication over time. “Dumb” once strictly meant unable to speak. Eventually, dumb became a reference to someone lacking intelligence, as at the time dumb people, who may have appeared rather witless, were thought of that way. An “idiot” (my deliberate term used above)was once a clinical term for a retarded person, and when it became common parlance for a – well- a dummy, it had to be stricken and replaced, and ‘retarded’ was next up on the roster. It was thought of as a kind term. We see how that word has been adapted once again into the realm of insulting slang. So now such a child is no longer classified as retarded, but “developmentally disabled”. Listen – people insult each other all the time by calling themselves ADD or OCD. Not nice, but really not cruel, just kind of ignorant. NOW who do I think I am, to be discounting this great mother’s efforts? I am the mother of a FAR MORE disabled child, whom I raised till his early departure from this world at age 19, in 2001. talk about CP, Brain damage, grand mal seizures, and a lifetime of debilitating health issues! WE helped him get through serious suffering. AND we dealt regularly with the OMRDD, which stands for the Office of MENTAL RETARDATION and Developmental Disabilities. They stuck a long time with that name. I have also been a specialist in the field of learning disabilities and other co-morbid conditions and handicaps for over 30 years. And I love all my students fiercely. But the use of “retarded” from time to time in casual speech does not bother me in the least! Especially if only describing a very annoying situation: “This is so retarded.” Never about a person, ever, period. But i can never get too out of joint about it either. I love Max. I love and respect all the Maxes and their mothers out there. And there is a place for these efforts, in particular to fight cruel bullying. But I still get very wary when people are made to feel forced into the dictates of the thought and speech police.

  4. Why is “retarded” now the R-word?
    Will “brain-damaged” soon become the B-word and “austistic” the A-word?
    Why is it ok to say someone is brain-damaged but not ok to say they are mentally retarded?
    of course, as you write, Chana Jenny, any word that is turned into an insult is “forbidden” — in that context only – not bec of the word itself but because insulting is forbidden.
    I agree with A.G. and Savta Ima – let’s not ban certain words. Let’s ban verbal cruelty.
    For example, I am from Worcester. That makes me a Worcesterite. If someone says, “YOU IDIOT WORCESTERITE!!” or worse – “GO BACK TO WORCESTER AND STAY THERE!” that is wrong. But that doesn’t turn Worcesterite into the forbidden W-word.
    BAN NEGATIVE BEHAVIORS – NOT CERTAIN NEUTRAL WORDS THAT SOME USE TO HELP THEM ENGAGE IN NEGATIVE BEHAVIORS

    • JewishMom

      hi rishe, thanks for your comment…I hear what you’re saying. I’m reposting my response to another poster here:

      From the examples she uses in the video she made, it appears that this mother is referring not to the nonjudgmental use of the word “retarded” to describe an individual, but rather when people use the word “retard” or “retarded” clearly as an insult.
      For example, she is not talking about a statement such as “This child is mentally retarded.” Or “This is a school for retarded children.”
      But rather, she is offended by clearly negative statements such as
      “You are such a retard, you never get anything right!” or “Stop being a retard.”

  5. It seems to me the problem with name calling someone “retarded” (which unfortunately my children do) is bad because of the person’s intent to harm someone else with words–an issur d’oraisa of ona’at devarim. So whatever word they use (Worcesterite) is not OK–they are using the gift of speech to harm others. Hitler YS”V once berated Jews for having too much of a conscience. The problem isn’t with the word retarded, but rather with the person’s intent when they say it.

  6. Chana Jenny, please forgive (or better yet – remove) my CAPITAL LETTERS in response above
    it seems as if I am SCREAMING at you chas v’sholom. I would not want to do that or even appear to be doing that. I appreciate your response and I see we agree after all

  7. In Massachusetts the Fernald school accepted boys who today would be called “developmentally disabled” or “mentally handicapped”. However in the 50’s and 60’s the medical term was “moron”. You can look it up. I agree with savta ima when she says, “language is fluid and evolving”. I guess it’s not the words but the intent that we should watch.

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