Language shapes the way we think. The way we think shapes the way we act. As such, it is no wonder people with
intellectual disabilities are fighting against the use of derogatory language.
You may have missed the second annual Spread the Word End the Word" campaign March 3. Yet you can still join the cause
of eliminating the word retard" from everyday language.
The word, derived from the mental retardation" diagnosis in the medical field, has become an insult, implying that a
person is stupid or helpless. People with intellectual disabilities are neither. They deserve respect and
acknowledgement for what they contribute to our communities.
The Spread the Word End the Word" campaign started as a youth movement through the Special Olympics organization in
2009. This year, youths and adults across the country are pledging their support in a statement reading: I pledge to
support the elimination of the derogatory use of the 'R' word from everyday speech and to promote the acceptance and
inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities."
However, the need extends beyond the everyday use of language.
The American Psychiatric Association is in the process of revising its bible of diagnostic criteria, the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (usually called the DSM). In the upcoming fifth version of this manual, a
workgroup of the APA is strongly considering changing the outdated and pejorative mental-retardation diagnosis to
intellectual disabilities," the term already used by people with disabilities and professionals in the field of
Here in Colorado, the state legislature is hearing House Bill 10-1137: Concerning the Use of People First Language.
This bill, which already has passed the House and just passed the first reading in the Senate, will require that all
new or amended statutes referring to people with disabilities shall include people-first language.
Using people-first language means using terminology and phrases that avoid implying that the person is defined by his
or her disability. For instance, instead of referring to a person as autistic, as though this is his or her entire
state of being, we would refer to a person with autism."
The language of HB 10-1137 also specifies replacing the outdated term mental retardation" with people with
Through the coordinated effort to rid the r" word from our everyday language and official documentation, we can also
change the way we think about people with intellectual disabilities. After all, we are all people first. Our abilities
and lack of abilities are just one piece of who we are.
To pledge your support to end the r" word, visit www.
For more information about local efforts to increase respect for people with disabilities, contact the local
organization for persons with intellectual disabilities, Community Connections, at 259-2464 or www.cci-colo
Tara Kiene is the director of case management with Community Connections Inc.