Let’s Make This Common Word A Little Less Common

Let’s Make This Common Word A Little Less Common

I hate the R word, and I mean despise it. I know there is an actual definition to the word, but the way in which people use it is really offensive. The slang for it… the connotation is negative, and hurtful, and ignorant. The word retardreally pushes my buttons. People who use it in a negative, demeaning manner…really push my buttons. The word is not meant to put people down, and it’s not meant to define or categorize a person as less than intelligent. The definition of the words is this to delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment. To refer to someone as retarded, as I have heard many people do, stabs me in a place of my heart that I can’t quite begin to describe. It’s a tender place, that’s full of light and hope. (I know that sounds super corny, but it’s what I imagine this place looks like! :) ) This is a place where all people are accepted for who they are and not judged or picked on.

My youngest brother, Josh, has Fragile X Syndrome. It is a genetic condition that runs in my family, I actually have multiple other family members (cousins and distant cousins) that either have it, or are carriers of the gene. Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, behavioral and learning challenges and various physical characteristics. Though FXS occurs in both genders, males are more frequently affected than females, and generally with greater severity.

Fragile X affects 1 in 4,000 males, and 1 in 8,000 females. It is just recently something that can be mentioned in conversation without people looking at you like you’re an alien with glowing purple horns.

Growing up with a sibling that is “different” was hard, extremely hard!! As a child you want to think that people are nice and kind hearted, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Josh attended the same school as my other brothers and myself, but was in the special education classes, or intermediate unit, he was not main streamed. Most people didn’t even know that Josh was our brother, they knew my two other brothers but Josh was “different”. I very specifically remember school bus rides. Josh would get upset over something, anything, and he reached over, ripped off my other brothers glasses and threw them out the school bus window!! And this happened on more than one occasion! After we moved into another house, kids that were much younger in age than Josh, but pretty close to the same mentality, would stop and ask if Josh could come out to play. At first we were excited, thinking that he was finally being accepted and that he was getting outside to play with other kids, until we realized that these kids were telling him they were playing hide-n-seek, telling him to hide in the woods, and THEY LEFT HIM THERE!!! FOR HOURS!!! My parents called the police because we couldn’t find him! Josh used to get picked on a lot, but luckily he had three older siblings who ALWAYS stood up for him, and who always will stand up for him. I know that kids can be cruel, but parents PLEASE teach your kids respect, and kindness, and to stick up for people that are being bullied.

Unfortunately people use the “R” word too often. They use it without thinking who it may be hurting. People with Down’s Syndrome are so genuinely sweet and positive, and would never even think to utter words that may be hurtful to someone else. Before just jokingly saying ‘it’, think to yourself if it’s really something that needs to be said. If there is ever any questions, do some research on Fragile X, and even get to know someone with it! I promise you that it will change how you look at things, and it will show you a piece of the world that you didn’t even know existed, that’s what it’s done for me. Let’s try to make this world a little better place for EVERYONE, not just some.

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Website: http://www.fragilex.org/fragile-x-associated-disorders/fragile-x-syndrome/

Profile photo of Ashley
My name is Ashley, and I am a wife to Greg, mother to a 2 year old daughter Ailyn, and pet lover/owner to Geno and Keirra. I am a mostly stay-at-home-mom, but I do still work on occasion as a vet tech.


  1. Profile photo of Ashley

    Thanks ladies for your kind comments about this article!! It’s so nice to have support and people who agree with ‘let’s raise our children with kindness and understanding!!’

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  2. Profile photo of Katie Lowe

    Great read, Ashley. And yes, that word makes me cringe too. Love that you all were such a supportive team for your brother growing up. Kids can be so cruel, it makes my heart hurt. So hopeful that parents will teach their children to be kind to everyone!

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  3. Profile photo of Sara Brennan

    @ahazy19, I am guilty of doing this myself and I will never think of this word the same again. I really appreciate you sharing your story with us, it’s so touching.

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