The mom of an eight-year-old U.K. boy with Down Syndrome sees nothing wrong with the word “retard.”
Since she started her blog last month, the mother-of-two has used it to shed light on the ups and downs of parenting a child with a disability.
She admitted to the Daily Mail that she panicked when her son Josh was diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome— a condition 45,000 Canadians live with.
“I was in total denial. He was in the neonatal unit for 10 days and at first I left him in hospital and went home and looked up having him adopted,” she said.
Now she says she “wouldn’t change him for the world.”
And she has no qualms using the “r” word, despite how “sensitive” people get about it.
She told the Daily Mail one of the times she used the term was when she found Josh drinking water out of a dog bowl, on all fours, when he was four.
“I kind of figured that as Josh gets older then people will use it at him (in a completely different context, I’m sure). But if Josh has grown up hearing me use it when someone is being silly and it’s said in a jokey way, he won’t take offence. He’ll (hopefully!) laugh in their face,” she wrote on her blog.
“Don’t be fooled — if someone randomly walked up and told me my son was a ‘f***ing retard,’ I’d end up being arrested. But I’m trying to teach my children these people aren’t worth the upset.”
They’ve already been confronted with the “r” word from a stranger at least once. When they came out of a handicap washroom, a lady reportedly remarked: “He should be in a wheelchair to use that toilet, not just a retard.”
Isaac laughed off the comment and told the woman, “she was free to use it after us as ‘retards’ are classed as disabled.”
Her hope is that through humour, the word will lose its impact, becomes less taboo and make her son stronger. She also feels it’s an easier approach than to “educate millions of people not to use the word,” as she told the Daily Mail.
“Not everyone will agree I’m sure, but I try to be realistic about their future,” she wrote on her blog.
At least one fellow parent does agree with her. In the comments section of her first blog post, a mother to a girl with Down Syndrome wrote: “It’s a word and they will hear it, we need to reduce its power by using it ourselves and ‘owning’ it. I thought we were the only ones though so thanks for bringing it out in the open. If anyone owns the word it’s us, and I think using it ourselves will shock people into not using it personally. It makes people think.”
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society, however, does not support the term.
“When I saw this story it does upset us because we think we’re past this,” said national executive director Kirk Crowther.
“People are making huge contributions in the community and this is a step backwards, a step in the wrong direction.
WATCH: Young Edmonton girl with Down Syndrome dazzles with her dance moves
“It’s derogatory, offensive and hateful in many many ways.”
That’s how he says the vast majority of families he works with feel.
It’s why he says there’s been a huge push to eliminate that word from people’s vocabularies. Thousands of school children across North America have even taken the pledge not to use it anymore, and to correct those who do.
WATCH: More on the campaign meant to stop the casual and negative use of the word ‘retard’
“Just don’t use the word. It’s that simple,” Crowther said.
“What should you call a person with a disability? Call them by their name.”