by Terry Rogers
Milford School District is working with Special Olympics to promote the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, a national measure that advocates eliminating the word “retard.” Marcy McKee and Emily Coverdale, Milford Central Academy Special Olympics Coordinators, say that use of the word is offensive.
“End the “R” word advocates believe that the use of the word “retard” in colloquial and everyday speech is hurtful and dehumanizing,” McKee explained. “The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory.”
At Milford Central Academy and other schools throughout the district, students were encouraged to sign a banner in support of eliminating the word from their vocabulary. The banners were available during lunch periods for all students to sign. McKee explained that students can get involved in the effort in many other ways as well.
“Students can get involved by participating in spirit weeks and taking the pledge during the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign,” McKee said. “They can also participate with Special Olympics in and out of school. A simple thing that everyone can do to help in this effort is to stop using the “r-word” in their daily language as well as letting others know of the hurtful effects the word can have when used in society.”
The Spread the Word to End the Word movement began in 2009 during the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit. The summit was held at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games with youth both with and without intellectual disabilities helping to create the campaign. The youth were motivated by a united passion to promote positive contributions those with intellectual disabilities provide to communities. It was also to create a simple call to action that would demonstrate a positive attitude change and promote the acceptance of all people.
Kylie Moorman, a partner for Special Olympics for 3rd through 7th grades and a member of the Special Olympics Young Athlete Program for 5th through 7th grade, has been involved with Special Olympics for as long as she can remember as her mother is a Special Education Coordinator with Milford School District.
“The joy of all the kids having fun and hanging out with eveyrone is the best thing about Special Olympics,” Moorman said. “This makes me happy and makes my day everytime I am around all of the Special Olympic participants. The Spread the Word campaign is important because we need to stop kids from saying the “R” word and making sure every kid feels equal. No one should ever feel bad about themselves.”
Nathan Waydelis is a Special Olympics athlete for grades 3 through 7 and began participating in Special Olympics because it lets him enjoy many sports, including basketball, bowling, soccer and flag football.
“What I enjoy most is that every team practices very hard and shows their heart on the field,” Waydelis said. “When they do those two things, I know that we will work together and do a good job and give it all we have! It makes me feel great and good and want to keep practicing hard. The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is important because what we want to do is end bullying and unkind words. We should not say those words because they can cause us to get in trouble and hurt people’s feelings.”
McKee is proud of how the students in Milford School District have responded to the campaign.
“This campaign is so important because most people who use the words “retard” or “retarded” do not mean to be hateful, but their words have a lasting impact on people with intellectual disabilities as well as their family and friends,” McKee explained. “We think the world would be better if everyone were to be included. Around the world, exclusion and discrimination continue to divide people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are changing that with actions for inclusion like Spread the Word.”
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