Still think the R word is just a word?

Because it’s not….

Every time someone says it, that’s the image that pops into my head….

My beautiful, smart, sassy Brooke being labelled….

So don’t say it…

And don’t just not say it…..

Spread the Word…

Spread the Word to End The Word…


Go here and find out what you can do….

And tell everyone who you hear say it that’s it’s just not cool…

It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it’s not just a word

It’s hurtful…

So don’t say it…and don’t let others say it around you…

Spread the Word to End the Word….

*I want to thank Courtney who gave me blessing to post this after she did with her sweet LC and Jace….



  1. Mark says:

    I must admit that growing up, we all said it, a lot! And then it’s hard to get out of your head once you’ve been saying it for decades. But I’m much better now and hopefully I’m forgiven.
    I’ll spread the Word around the World.

    • Teresa says:

      That’s what I was going to say. It has been around for so long, it was thrown around so randomly. but now that I have kids, I don’t want it used anymore. it is hurtful and disrespectful.

  2. Jessica says:

    So glad you posted about this Holly, I will definitely do a post on the 7th. Thank you. xo

  3. Jenny says:

    The word turns my stomach…Putting the word that is “just a word” with the picture of beautiful little Brooke, sends a powerful message.

  4. Laura says:

    This post is powerful. I know you and Brooke will stop many people from using the r word. Thank you!!

  5. Kristin says:

    This is so tough. It takes a lot to adjust people’s language because of how it hurts others. I admit to saying this for a long time (until learning how it affected friends who had autistic children). I also used to say, “Oh, that’s gay” or whatever…and surely meant NOTHING mean by it, because I am not a bigot nor am I homophobic. I, like many people, grew up using words that we didn’t give much thought to…until we stepped outside our insulated circle and learned that there were people who were, in fact, offended, hurt, saddened, and intimidated by language that we give little thought/meaning to. It’s an effort, but it’s one that everyone should make. Thanks for spreading the word.

    • Angie says:

      You said just what I wanted to say. We often learn to use a word in a negative way, even if we are not using in the worst negative way it could be used. I appreciate the reminder to be more aware of the words I use. Words have power & even if we aren’t wielding them to harm, harm people they still can.

  6. Robbie says:

    People who use that word repulse me. They are ignorant. It is hateful and mean spirited. END THE WORD!

  7. Xazmin says:

    I have to say that I think all of the uproar about the “r” word seems like a whole lot of political correctness run amok. And I say this as someone who has a very tender spot in her heart for people, particularly children, with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I have family members who are autistic, and since my youth I have worked with children who have Down Syndrome and other special needs. I have worked with special education students and programs for years as well.

    The definition of retard (verb) is: “to make slow, delay”. So when I say I am retarded at something, it means I am not catching on as quickly as the average person…delayed in my ability to get the hang of it. I am not insulting a special needs child.

    If you are going to ban the “r” word because it is insulting to special needs individuals, then please never use the word “fat” to describe something large, as I am fat and I find it offensive for you to insult me that way. Also, I have people close to me who are mentally ill, so please never use the words, “insane” or “crazy” when describing some wild experience. It is hateful and cruel to those who suffer mental illness.

    The bottom line is, unless someone uses the term “retarded” to actually attack a special needs individual, it is completely inaccurate to say they are insulting special needs individuals whenever they use that word.

    • Xazmin, I would strongly urge you to watch this video from the National Spread The Word To End the Word campaign regarding the use of the word “retard” and then tell me if you still think it is okay to use that word about yourself or another person regardless of their abilities.


    • Jenn says:

      The bottom line is, whether you use the word to attack someone with special needs or not, it does attack them. When someone says that the garbage is being retarded because it fell over while you tried to pull a bag out of it, it’s attacking someone with special needs. The can isn’t being “normal” because it fell over – and whether you wanted to or not, you attacked the child with special needs. The pen being “gay” for not working right is attacking someone who is homosexual – it’s not working right, the way it “should” be working, the way you believe is right. The pen isn’t “straight” for not working properly, and that makes it an attack whether you wanted it to be one or not.

      Dictionary definitions are fine, but no one uses words to their exact definition often – especially a word like “retarded.” That’s so retarded – that’s so not acting in a smart way, acting stupid, acting like someone who’s not important as I am. That’s what you say when you use that word. While, sure, you’re not calling someone with Down syndrome a “retard” to their face, but you’re certainly insulting them behind their backs – whether you meant to or not.

      I don’t use fat or crazy or insane to describe things or people because it’s wrong. Just as I don’t use retarded or gay to describe how something or someone is behaving in a way I don’t like. Do you call someone the n-word just because they are that color? Do you see how it’s now the n-word and not written out? Because it’s offensive and it hurts people.

      Without educating, without showing how this word hurts those with special needs and those that love them, we can never move forward. It’s not inaccurate to say it insults them because it does; just as “fat” or “gay” or “insane” insults other people when it is used.

      To quote Rob Johnson, a CBS news correspondent from my local area who has a brother with Ds, “When you think you’re being clever and hip when using the r-word, you’re not. You’re just being ignorant.”

    • erika says:

      I was once like you… before my son, I used the word retard(ed) ALL the TIME. I remember laughing at the news when a bunch of parents were angered at the movie tropic thunder and the usage of the word. I stood in my living room, folding laundry and laughed “that is so retarded”…. Yup. What a slap in face, little did I know I would be pregnant soon and birth a beautiful son who in deed is RETARDED (per medical terms since he has Down syndrome). And what a reality check when I realized how the R word so closely was tied in with my son. There is nothing positive associated with the Rword. No one wants to be associated with a word that is deemed so negative, especially having your child (of all people) labeled as such. No one runs around happily saying, “yay, my child is retarded”. There is negative connotation with the word Retard(ed) and it’s not because of its actual meaning, it’s because when people use that word they do so to as an insult and to imply stupidity. Yes, my son might be slow of learning, BUT WAY FAR FROM STUPID.
      I hope someday you can open up your mind to situations like these, more importantly I hope you can open up your heart. You have no idea the battles we face, us parents of children with special needs, our children are already being neglected and abused by many, all we want is respect for our children, they are after all human beings.

    • Kate says:

      Xazmin…the R word is unacceptable & hurtful. I don’t have a child with ds, nor have had the pleasure of spending time with anyone with ds. I am however a mother & a human being with feelings & have the gift of being able to think before I speak which most people have that gift as well. Not saying I never make mistakes or use hurtful words. People also have the gift of learning from their mistakes. I think Holly is just trying to stand up for & educate people on a subject near & dear to her heart. Also trying to give awareness that the R word hurts, so please don’t use it. I wanted to comment on a couple of your statements. Not meant to be in a hurtful way, just an eye opening way. You mentioned that you have family or worked with children who are autistic. Im sure you love them & treat them as your equal. That doesn’t make it ok to use the R word even playing around & not in their presence. For instance, I have a sister who was adopted into our family, her skin color is black & my skin color is white. Just because she’s my sister & we love each other, doesn’t give me the right or acceptance to use the N word. Even if I was joking & not around her doesn’t make it ok. See what Im getting at? Also you mentioned that you’re overweight & the word fat is hurtful but seems like you’ve accepted that word because everyone says it, therefore it must be socially acceptable right? Wrong! There are a lot of terms used by people on a regular basis that aren’t acceptable to use when describing someone or when describing how you’re feeling. Doesn’t make it right or any less hurtful. Just means people need to think before they speak & educate themselves. How dare someone say that because words like fat & crazy are used without society blinking an eye, say that the R word should be ok to use too. That’s pure laziness in not standing up for the feelings of our brothers & sisters in this world. Humanity can’t change overnight, but we can try to change a little at a time.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I HATE this word!!! I find it horribly offensive. I have a cousin with down syndrome and she is the sweetest person that I know. It’s devastating to think of anyone being unkind to her. I know a lot of people use this word not realizing its power, and not intending to hurt others, so it’s great that you are spreading the message!

  9. Byn says:

    I must admit I grew up in a family for whom this was synonymous with stupid (and most of my extended family was also racist, sexist, and most other “ists” out there). I have a friend who gave birth to a baby with down’s just after Christmas, and before he was born, she wrote a post about this, and sadly, that was really the first time I’d put thought into it. I felt awful for being so insensitive. You’re right in that its not enough to just change your own behavior, but to spread the word as well. I wish I could think of a good way to spread the word on my blog/show without causing hurt to anyone. If you have any ideas, I would love to talk with you about it more in the future.

  10. Deanna says:

    I feel that banning the “r” word is the FARTHEST thing from a “political correctness run amok”. It is necessary for human decency to prevail.

    I know the definition of the word all too well. I LIVE with it every day. So when people flippantly use it to describe something “stupid” or in place of the word “idiot” it is seriously OFFENSIVE. Someone’s intellectual ability is not something to joke about or slip into every day conversation about a huge mistake that was made.

    This word is a medical diagnosis- NOT an “oopsie” swear word. As much as you would NOT use the word “nigger” or “fag” you should not use the word “retard”

    would you really use a word medically describing beautiful Brooke in such a “common” way?

    LOVE this post, Holly!

  11. Art says:

    This post is powerful. Thanks

  12. Missy says:

    @Xazmin, so you are saying that it’s okay to call something “retarded” because it’s okay to call someone “fat”? That is one helluva lame ass excuse! I don’t call people FAT because it is WRONG and it is hurtful. And no, I am not big-boned or overweight by ANY means.

    Guess what, it is NOT okay to use the word “retard” to describe ANY-one or ANY-thing in my mind. Even when used in “correct terminology” for medical purposes. And yes, even THEY are shying away from the word as well as a means to describe a person with cognitive disabilities.

    My children know better than to use it. I was called retarded as a child. And NOT because I was “stupid” or mentally disabled. But because I LOOKED different due to my PHYSICAL disabilities and the fact that I had required outer medical devices to help me.

    I am so sick of this PC crap being thrown around when things REALLY ARE offensive. Because I can guarantee 9 to 1, that if it were YOUR child that had ANY type of disability, you would never, EVER tolerate the “r-word” being used for any kind of reasoning.

    If only you knew how truly that word really does hurt a person. Especially when they are not in the least bit “retarded”.

  13. Kimberly says:

    Xazmin, the word “retarded” is RARELY used in society to describe something as slow. It has been taken way out of context by society and is now used to describe something as dumb or stupid. I know, I used to use the word when I was younger. A teacher giving a ridiculous assignment in school? Retarded. An overly high bill? Retarded. But I’ve learned over the years that the word is hurtful. This isn’t a question of political correctness in my opinion, it is about being a decent human being. I can’t think of a time in my adult life where I’ve actually used that word because I don’t feel it necessary.

    Would you walk up to a five year old, who has developmental delays who was having a hard time doing something and say “Oh honey, it’s okay, you’re just retarded”? Absolutely not. Disabilities don’t make someone any less of a person and it is unnecessary to use such a hurtful word…they deserve just as much respect as any other human being.

    For the record, I do not have a child with disabilities…and I am thankful for that…but that doesn’t mean that I can’t respect other children and adults that do and NOT use the word. I find it incredibly childish.

  14. I slip every so often but I then correct myself. I never realized I actually said it occasionally until i started working on our book. I don’t like being politically correct but I don’t like being insensitive either so now I find myself gently reminding others that it’s not okay.

  15. amen, sweet soul sista. If all us mama’s of kids with special needs keep shouting this, sooner or later we’ll be louder than that darn word!!!!

  16. Kristin says:

    @Xasmin, Just like a lot of words in the English language, the meaning changes as society does. And there are actually different dictionaries around that deal with slang. I think that using the dictionary as your back-up is extremely shallow. Obviously the word has evolved from the dictionary meaning into something it was never intended to be, why? Because the world has changed and people are cruel.
    I think it is unfair that you have told Holly she is being too “politically correct”. That to me is saying that you are ok with the word, however it is used.
    Today “retarded” is used as a cruel insult, not a medical diagnosis, otherwise it is actually referred to as “medically retarded”, and even then it is rare in the medical community, opting for something like “developmental delays”.
    It is no longer considered politically correct to use the word.
    Why should Brooke have to be labelled with a word that in recent years has become an insult just because you think Holly is being too politically correct? That’s her child!

    Good on you Holly, the world is becoming desensitised to these sorts of things, someone needs to stand up and make people accountable for thoughtless, hurtful words.

    • Xazmin says:

      I never intended to insult Holly or her daughter. It is the last thing I would want to do. If that is how you perceived my comment Holly, I sincerely apologize.

      My comment was an emotional response on behalf of a dear friend of mine who was recently attacked by bloggers for her use of the word, when she was in no way intending any offense to special needs children. I guess we all feel the need to defend the people who are dear to us.

  17. Angie says:

    In everyday conversation people use the word in a negative way. Words whose meaning is negative & hurtful don’t need to be officially banned. People just need to make the effort to eradicate the word from their daily usage. Will that be a challenge? Yes. Does that mean people will have to change how they think? Yes. Will it be worth it? Most definitely.

    Here’s an idea… take a moment and think about something that hurts you. Think about something that someone said that hurt your feelings or made you sad. Now imagine that they didn’t mean to hurt you, but that they could avoid hurting you if they just made the effort. Now imagine that they refused to make the effort because they felt you should just get over being hurt. After all, they didn’t mean to hurt you. How would that make you feel?

    Words have real and lasting consequences. We can all remember the exact words that people said that lifted us up and the exact words people said that crushed our spirits. I believe it is well worth the effort to treat others with kindness and respect. I cannot make anyone else change how they live and think. However, I can choose to lead by example and be the change that I want to see. What will you choose to do?

  18. Jenny says:

    Xazmin…You pretty much summed up in your statement alone exactly what we all hate about people using the R word…You said when you use it what you mean to say is “I’m not catching on as fast as the average person”….
    You know, cause you’re “delayed” or not as “intelligent” as the average person….How the fuck is that not insulting to people with Special Needs who struggle intellectually? You’re essentially making fun of “slow” people.
    When some one says something like “OMG I’m so retarded” what the hell do you think that in itself means? It’s a slam. It’s a hurtful comment to people who “don’t catch on as fast”. You don’t need to be directing it to anyone in particular to have it come off as insensitive, ignorant and just plain rude!
    Would it hurt to have a little compassion and to take the word out of your vocabulary to respect people who do find it offensive?

  19. Thanks for sharing this Holly. Down with that R word.

  20. Tiffany says:

    This is very powerful Holly. Can I steal this picture/word idea to spread the word on my blog? I hope we’ve managaed to change at least one person’s vocab today!! *Hint, hint Xanin!!

  21. Lexi says:

    One of my most favorite people ever (the actor John C. McGinley )wrote an awesome piece about this for the Huffington Post:


    It says it all (okay, just kidding, you guys said it all, I just thought I’d add to it). Well done, Holly!

  22. Raphaelle says:

    Right there with you Holly.
    I think it is important to note that even if the meaning of the word is not supposed to be hurtful in anyway, it has been used as an insult for so long and so consistently that it carries this connotation. MAYBE it can still be used in its intended way by some people in some situations, but I do think that it is not often the case. I have been speaking English for a few years only and have learnt a lot through watching movies and it is clear that the current meaning of retard/retarded is really hurtful and the people who use it should understand how their words can affect people who have delays and the people who love them. It is so easy to consider this a small matter when you are not directly impacted. But it is not.

  23. Darcy says:

    Now I’ll think of Brooke’s sweet face. I do slip but I don’t try to justify it. It’s a bad habit developed in my teens that I’m trying to break for good. The only time it is okay to use is in music – to play those notes slowly.. Often at the end of a song for gradual slowing.

  24. Ducky says:

    Such a heated topic!

    I work with children with a HUGE rainbow of challenges…we ALL have challenges in life, right? I much prefer to refer to them as challenges as opposed to disabilities even though thats what their IEP’s state. Its only a disability if you allow it be.

    Anyway, I would never in a million years even THINK to refer to any of these children as a retard or retarded.

  25. FYI says:

    Been on twitter today? Looks like GucciMama has plenty to say about it. Wonder how she will feel when her kid gets to school and kids make fun of him

  26. Shell says:

    Such an important message. All of the posts/videos this week have been inspiring.

  27. Robin says:

    I hate to admit it, but around here (Boston), we use that word a lot. Not to describe people, but usually how stupid a situation is. You know that was “wicked retahded”. I do have a cousin with downs and I have the utmost respect for families dealing with it, but I have been guilty on occasion of saying the “R” word.

  28. Kristin says:

    Amen to that!
    And to your new header-HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Kristin recently posted..03.07.12My Profile

  29. Ouch ouch ouch. A reminder to us all to be ever so careful. I hate when people still say that word, esp after that whole Mardi Gras fiasco when some drunk idiot called a little girl that and broke her heart. Yes, let’s stop it NOW.
    Rach (DonutsMama) recently posted..Guest Post: The Other Side of BullyingMy Profile

  30. Rhenee Berger says:

    Hi Holly… I always love to read your tweets & I’m often drawn to read a post as well. You always make me giggle. Somehow, I completely missed out on the specifics of your children. I don’t know how?? I think I was just drawn to your “mommy comments” and wit. Anyhow, I dropped in after seeing your cute new makeover and decided to read your “cast of characters.” Now I feel even more drawn to you… My 4th child (Raylee) was born with an immune disorder that we were familiar with because my 2nd son (Joshua) also had it. I found out Raylee would have it via prenatal testing…. which had me extremely emotional during my pregnancy. Ironically, Raylee was born Jan 19, 2010. After Joshua’s journey, we were advised to terminate. I couldn’t find peace with that path …both children had to endure bone marrow transplants to correct their disease. …I’ve probably shared too much- I was just full of happy tears and wanted to say SOMETHING. You have beautiful children …we are surely kindred spirits.

  31. Big D & Me says:

    I was a special ed teacher and had to even tell teachers they were completely ignorant for saying that word
    Big D & Me recently posted..Mary Poppins HatMy Profile

    • holly says:

      one would hope that teachers would know better, but at least you would actually say something…so many people just silently listen…blech

  32. Mamatink says:

    What a great action! I joined up!


  1. [...] my pal, Holly over at Holly’s House; Not A Perfect Mom’s Blog and her little girl, Brooke, who has Downs Syndrome. Brooke is what you would call [...]

  2. [...] or are on the fence about ditching its usage (unless on sheet music) you must read Holly’s Word post. That sweet girl’s face will make you think [...]

  3. [...] while I only know her virtually, I adore her spirit. She posted the other day about her daughter Brooke who has Down Syndrome. I choked back the tears to see the r-word spread across Brooke’s [...]

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