The Infamous ‘R’

Oh yes, the infamous R word! The rebel without a cause influence on society that totally ruined the face of the Neuro-Diverse (see the Sui-Generist Mind). I’m talking about the words retard, retarded, retardation, tard, etc. To be honest, I don’t care for it. I’ve been called it several times before and frankly, I’ve had enough of it.

Let’s Define it:

re·tard /riˈtärd/

Delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment.
offensive. A mentally handicapped person (often used as a general term of abuse). (

A Brief History of ‘R-rated’ Behaviour

1900’s – 1930’s

Notably, nicknamed “feeble minded” “dense” and “backward” those with LD’s/Mental Disability (MDs) were considered less than, if not, inferior to other humans. At the time, those of us diagnosed with a neuro-diversity  (scientifically called Mental Retardation) were often ill treated because we were seen as genetic mistakes and often seen a problems to be ‘fixed’ or puzzles to be solved. Originally only those with  an IQ below 70 were considered ‘retarded’, however the definition now has both: relation to mental functioning, as well as relation to individuals’ functional skills in their everyday environment. This ‘mental retardation’ can vary from mild/nonspecific learning disabilities to more specifically classified LD, to more severe cases. Treatments consisted of lobotomies (surgically removing portions of the skull and brain often resulting in brain damage), forced sterilization (surgical infertility), institutionalization, and isolation from society. All of these treatments were used to eradicate, punish, and segregate us from the local community.

1940’s – 1970’s

More research became prevalent and new discoveries were made, however children and adults were often ridiculed and abused. Lobotomies were less likely to happen, however institutions and ‘schools for the mentally retarded’ were readily available and treatment was still not as helpful. Often families were still ashamed to have a child with disabilities, thus frowned upon in society.

1980’s – Present

The education system has created the Individual Education Plan (IEP) to assist students of all ages in the classroom. The R word  is still used today. Although frowned upon when said, it is still being said regardless. A lot of us Neuro-Diverse, are hurt by this word and are often offended (and rightfully so) because of the long history of abuse and misunderstanding of how we think, function, and live. But we need to go beyond the classroom, out into the real world and help build a new tomorrow where there is equal access to new information and different ways of communication to help our deficits.

Let’s Define Redefine it:

re·tard /riˈtärd/

Different in communicating, thinking, and processing; exceptional completion of accomplishments.
inoffensive. A Neuro-Diverse person (often used as a general term of a compliment).  (APDiva)

I’m not trying to be politically correct about this, I hate the use of this word and I feel that if we can change the face of the Neuro-Diverse from what it used to be to what it should be seen as (still has a ways to go), then we can have less discrimination and abolish the stigma attach to us…and maybe even the R word.

© APDiva All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is strictly forbidden. Thank you.


2 thoughts on “The Infamous ‘R’

  1. Chelsea says:

    Interesting. Traditionally, ‘mental retardation’ actually only refers to someone who scores below a 70 on an IQ test. It doesn’t apply to anyone else with LD. But that is such an arbitrary thing and of course a lot of Autistic people as well as others who are neurodiverse score lower on IQ tests than they really should because of language barriers. So it’s such an arbitrary thing. Of course, most of us have been called the ‘R’ word at some point. I like where you are going with this. I think it would be very difficult to ever reclaim it. But I like the idea. The word ‘queer’ was successfully reclaimed by gay people. I do think it’s a bit different though because in order for us to reclaim it successfully there would have to be people who respected us as a cultural minority
    and we are lacking that.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and comment. I agree with the cultural aspect as well, that relates to Sui-Generist! Although, the definition of ‘retardation’ based on research from various sources, MR, general LDs, and intellectual disabilities (IDs) are considerably interchangeable within this umbrella definition and it has in the past been defined/identified as an IQ score under 70. It used to only focus almost entirely on cognitive thought processes, however the definition now has both: relation to mental functioning and relation to individuals’ functional skills in their everyday environment. As a result, a person with a below-average IQ may not actually be mentally retarded (MR). However, I will address that difference in the post and take into consideration. Thanks again! 🙂

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