Respect, Regard, Revere Laura Jo McKamey and her son A.J. I have been a rural speech-language pathologist for 27 years. For 25 of those 27 years, one of my students has been my own son, A.J., who was born with Down syndrome. Because I am the only SLP in the county, it ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   June 01, 2012
Respect, Regard, Revere
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Development / Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Speech, Voice & Prosody / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   June 01, 2012
Respect, Regard, Revere
The ASHA Leader, June 2012, Vol. 17, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.17072012.39
The ASHA Leader, June 2012, Vol. 17, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.17072012.39
Laura Jo McKamey and her son A.J.
I have been a rural speech-language pathologist for 27 years. For 25 of those 27 years, one of my students has been my own son, A.J., who was born with Down syndrome. Because I am the only SLP in the county, it was my responsibility to provide his speech-language treatment as well as his family life. I know my situation is not unique. I have met many colleagues who share the extra responsibility of a child with disabilities.
My son has a stutter and a frontal lisp, and believes that his reality (populated by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Walt Disney characters, and Power Rangers) is genuine. As his SLP, I knew academically the expectations for his future and educational progress. I participated in painful individualized education program meetings where the mother in me and the professional in me were placed at odds. Our school district, though small, has had a variety of students with severe educational needs. Each of these students is unique and differently able, not easily placed in a nice cubbyhole with a set curriculum of teaching techniques and tools. A.J. knows how to read, write, and tell time. He has read all of the Harry Potter books with a 70% comprehension rate, a minor miracle considering his reading level is second grade. Today, A.J. is a successfully employed adult.
As a mother, I had a heartbreaking experience when A.J. was 4 years old. My older boys came home from the park one day because neighborhood boys had told them to “take that retard home.” My sons could not understand how one word could cause them so much pain, and refused to take A.J. outside to play anymore.
So, when A.J. was 8 years old, we enrolled him in Special Olympics. He gained a sense of self-esteem that no one can shake. He thinks he is the greatest bowler in the world with a score of 68. He thinks he can outrun Usain Bolt with a 50-meter dash time of 45 seconds. In 2008, Special Olympics International launched a campaign to “Spread the Word to End the Word.” The goal of this campaign is to replace “retarded” with other words—like respect, regard, and revere—in world lexicon. But this change isn’t easy. Intentional or not, it is still used, even by people who should know better. Don’t be that person. As an ASHA member, I feel that it’s my duty—our duty—to douse this word that has caused, and can continue to cause, so much pain.
Our children, students, and clients with intellectual disabilities have a voice. It is our professional responsibility to find and give power to that voice by refusing to use words that hurt.
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June 2012
Volume 17, Issue 7