Fall 2012

Fall 2012
[learning to live a perfectly imperfect life]

A Letter From Rylee (A Little Bit About The "R" Word)


Last week, I wrote about my desire to share what Rylee has taught me, so I posted her first letter about People-First Language.

Here is Rylee's 2nd letter, written last August, prompted by a particular movie that hit the theaters starring with a cast consisting of Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr.

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A Little Bit About The "R" Word

August 2008

I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself.

My name is Rylee.
I am 4 years old. I go to preschool and can count to 5.
I am learning my ABCs and can spell my name.
I am starting to write some letters and even know how to read some words.

Do I sound like other kids you know?

And, there is something else that makes me, me...
I have Down syndrome.

People with Down syndrome have a medical diagnosis of
"mild to moderate retardation."
The dictionary says that "retardation" is a condition in which
mental development is slow or delayed.

I think it means that it takes my brain a little bit
more time to work than others.
I'm not sure what the big deal is about that.
My mom says it gives her more time to enjoy the things that I do.

What has happened to the word "retarded" is a sad thing. It's so sad that parents of kids with Down syndrome don't even like hearing the word "retarded," so they call it the "R" word.
It's because people use it in a negative way.

Have you ever done something you considered "dumb" and said,
"Oh, I'm so retarded" or "Man, that was retarded!"?
You may have heard others say it, too,
and haven't thought anything of it.

But, do you realize that when you use the "R" word in that way,
you are making fun of me?
You are saying that I am "dumb."

There is a movie out called "Tropic Thunder." It has some actors in it that lots of people think are funny. In fact, if my parents didn't know what the movie was about, they might even have gone to see it. But, they aren't going to see it, and they hope that others won't see it either.
The actors in the movie use the "R" word in a bad way.

It may not seem like a big deal to you.
You may think, "Well, I don't mean it like that."
But, it hurts me. And it hurts my family.
Mom and Dad say that our words are very powerful.
What and how we say things shows others what we believe.

I hope that you believe what I do... that I am Rylee,
and that even thought it takes my brain a little longer to do things,
I am smart and capable and deserving of respect.

Respect.

Maybe that should be the new "R" word.

The next time you do something you consider "dumb" or "stupid," please think about me. Maybe you could just say, "Oh, that was silly!"
(Because I don't really like the words "dumb" and "stupid" either!)
We all do silly things!

I just don't want you to use the "R" word,
because I don't want to be made fun of...
(and please show support of my family and me by NOT going
to see the movie. This lets the movie producers know that
making fun of me isn't okay.)

Thank you, Rylee!

*****

If you would like to pass Rylee's letter along, please email me
and I can email you her letter as a pdf document.

Thanks for helping to raise awareness!

© 2008 Carin Griffith • Disability Awareness Alliance™

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