Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Why we never use the "r-word" in our house (anymore)

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For the record, I've never called either of my boys a "retard."

Parents are advised not to throw labels at their children, but rather point out their (mis)behavior. Thus, you can call a child on his lying, cheating behavior, but don't call call him an outright "liar" because the term "liar" will sink deep into his psyche and not only damage his self-esteem and earning potential, but all future relationships.

I've never called my boys the "r-word," but there is a high IQ child* in my household who sometimes acts way below his age and IQ. I'm not going to detail the behaviors here, but they can be odd (though we see it less as he ages). Is it some sort of a tic-cy thing? Are these uncontrollable ADHD behaviors? Is it a bit of Asperger syndrome? My personal theory is that there is a fine, yet fuzzy, line between a quirky high IQ child and a highly-functional bright kid with Asperger.

But grab those rotten tomatoes from your garden and get ready to toss them my way because I have, a handful of times, told this certain son he was acting "like he was retarded." I further explained that it meant he was acting like he had a diminished mental capacity. Behavior that's all the more frustrating because his theoretical mental capacity puts him in a class of, say, 1 in 800** kids, on the high-functiong end of the spectrum.

I grew up with a profoundly retarded next door neighbor. Her name was PK, and I remember my odd fascination with the giant tricycle she (at about 10 years old) rode up and down the block. There is an oft-repeated story about some of us neighborhood kids running around my front yard "playing" PK, that is imitating her odd behaviors and sounds (she was nonverbal). I don't remember this, so I'm thinking we were quite young and not so much making fun of her, but trying to understand her. Maybe.

As you might imagine my parents were horrified when they found us and not only broke up our little game, but told us in no uncertain terms Never. Play. This. Again. Maybe there was a softer sensitivity training included with the harsh reprimand or maybe we were just shamed into submission. I can't recall.

So anyway, I have, on rare occasions told my boy he was acting retarded, though I won't again after learning how strongly some people react to the "r-word."

Anyway, it's irrelevant. Apparently, there's a term that serves as a stronger wake-up call. My boys are now in 3rd and 5th grade. Yesterday, one of them came whining to me, his sense of pride deeply wounded, "Mo-oooom, he called me a nongifted first grader!"

* I mention the IQ thing, because I often write about high-IQ gifted children.

** I made this number up. I once mentioned an actual number in my blog and then someone emailed me, "Oh, his IQ must be ###." Kinda creepy.

1 comment:

laughingatchaos said...

A non-gifted first grader...snort! Love it! LOL!
Now I'm seeing GT in my four year old. He can read "large" words (five or more letters). Today at karate he stood when the teacher asked for those with three (white) stripes to stand; he has one white and two black, but hey, it was three! Smart teacher recognized what J did. And if J asks me to keep labeling things around the house, the house will look like a Richard Scarry book. ;)