Sticks and Stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me. That was a chant that we used to say over and over as a children. I can still hear it ringing through my head in that sing song voice. I wish it were true. Broken bones can heal, but sometimes the sting of some one's words have a much more lasting impact.
This is something my friend have been "talking" about over email for a week now. Last week her daughter came home from school very upset after listening to an exchange between two of her classmates. It went something like this, "you are a retard" "no you are" "no you're a retard". You get the picture. Emma had been prepared for this day. Her parents had prepped her on what to do. She was to stay out of it and come home and tell her parents, which she did. You see Emma has a brother with Down Syndrome. I have written about my friends here before. She has a blog, find that here. Amy, the mom and my friend, emailed me about what she should do. She was very angry and hurt and her words broke my heart as I was reading it. I could feel her rage, and her disappointment. It's never easy to see your child wounded with words. I suggested she email the social worker at our elementary school. I have always found her to do a tremendous job teaching the children about things like this. I am convinced she is the main reason most of the children in Daniel's class are wonderful advocates for him. She followed my advice and emailed the school and suggested that they look into this link.
Monday Emma came home and said that all the 4th grade (it appears that it may be more of the classes too) had a time with the social worker and principal. It had been a difficult subject for Emma to hear. She cried during the discussion. My heart ached for her. Much to my surprise (and genuine delight!) my son Zachary stood up and added his two cents (being the noble advocate that he is). He talked of his brother Daniel and some of the challenges he faces. He has done this before and it seems that the social worker and he are becoming quite the tag team! Emma felt very grateful for Zachary standing up and giving his speech. She felt very supported. I felt very proud. He hadn't even told me about it. One of the other boys said that Emma was "very brave".
When I asked Zachary about it yesterday he told me some of it, but wasn't really interested in sharing. He did say that kids talked about their Grandma's or parents who use the "R" word and therefore, they had no idea it could be hurtful to some people. One girl said she used it in the past but never would again. Zachary couldn't understand why adults might be using such language. We talked about that for a bit. I told him that maybe no one every explained that it is wrong, maybe they choose to use it anyway. But for sure they don't know if they are never told. It sounds like it was a very good discussion and it sounds like many kids responded to it. I'm very proud of Zachary that he continues to advocate for the kids that can't always do so for themselves. I'm proud that he supported his friend, when mostly no one else did. I'm proud that he is so self assured that at barely 10 he has the bravery to do that. I am mostly thankful that Amy and I can keep up the fight to be accepting of everyone, and we can do it togther and that our kids will be behind us doing the same. I'm hopeful that we can change the "R" word to a more positive one, like Respect.
As I was finishing this blog this story came across from disabliity scoop. Read about white house chief of staff Rahm Emanual being quote in the Wall Street Journal asying "f_ing retarded". Read about that here. Apparently, we have a lot of work to do. I for one, am hopeful.
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