“Retarded” and Asperger’s Normalcy, Take 2

21 Oct

The R-Bomb dropped in a group of 19-year-olds with Asperger’s Disorder today. Given my most recent blog (“I Don’t Want to Hear Retarded Again”), I was already primed for frustration. I decided to ask these guys their thoughts on the word.

–“It’s used to describe just how dumb someone is. I mean, it’s like saying, ‘You are that stupid’.”

–“It’s better than curse words. It’s more accurate.”

–“It’s not my problem. It’s just a cause for others who care about not hurting the feelings of others.”

— “It’s okay when it’s true.”

— “It’s more socially appropriate than telling someone, ‘You’re a f$*#ing idiot.'”

I admit, I expected a sympathetic audience, and I was shocked when I didn’t find one. I expected their own histories to promote understanding. I expected their own keen senses of right and wrong and social justice to agree with how heinous I find the R word.

What I found was similar to the thinking of those who use “retarded” without hesitation. Judging the word’s ubiquity in our media and culture, the thinking of these three guys is no different than most anyone else. So, this is yet another time when Asperger’s is perfectly normal. Unfortunately, this is a time when I wish it wasn’t.


Posted by on October 21, 2010 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


5 responses to ““Retarded” and Asperger’s Normalcy, Take 2

  1. Tam

    October 21, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    When you decide a word is a label, instead of a way to convey meaning, you put yourself in an odd position. I’m pretty certain the word “retarded” existed before it was used to speak of mental ability, and means “Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed.”

    Before “the r word” was used to refer to mental development, developmentally challenged people were called “imbeciles” or some such, and “retarded” was introduced as a less offensive term.

    I honestly don’t get the upset over the word. Its meaning is clear, and though it is often used and meant as a slight, it seems much less offensive than calling someone “stupid”. After all, wouldn’t you rather people think you were slow to understand something than completely incapable? But I’ve yet to hear a major outcry over the word “stupid”.

    • jholverstott

      October 22, 2010 at 5:27 AM

      Oh, Tam, you are also so insightful. “When you decide a word is a label, instead of a way to convey meaning, you put yourself in an odd position.” I’ve been thinking about that sentence for 24 hours now. The hard part, for me, is that I don’t see an outcry coming over the word stupid because it doesn’t refer to a group of people, whereas I think “retarded” is a direct (or indirect) reference to a group of people who can’t stand up for themselves.

  2. Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci

    October 21, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Many’s the time I’ve *ahem* quite firmly educated some ignorant little whelp about what “retarded” means, including how my Aspie daughter isn’t retarded–in fact, she’s very intelligent and gets great grades, it’s just that her brain is wired differently. I’d like to think my patented steely-eyed glare and way of looming over said whelp gets the point across. I guess it could be worse — what about all the twits out in the world who toss the word “gay” around insultingly? It’s up to us parents to teach our kids social skills and savvy so they’ll be less likely to be hurt by wrongful usage of certain words.

    • jholverstott

      October 22, 2010 at 5:33 AM

      I *ahem* have had educated with, perhaps, a little less aplomb. I’d like to think that my “that-is-not-appropriate” statement gets the point across. “Gay” and “retarded” are both on my radar. Congrats to your daughter on her grades and to you.


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