“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

How many times have we used that phrase? I can remember shouting it at people when I was at school when an unkind remark had been made against me. It’s a sort of last resort thing to do. It’s a way of having the last word . The truth of the matter is it is completely untrue.

Unkind words DO hurt. Certain words can stay with you forever. We often remember our child’s first words, or the words used by our partner at a memorable occasion. These are good words, they made us feel nice and we remember them.

In contrast how many of us can remember being bullied by someone at school? My guess is that you still remember the words they used? I used to be terrified of a certain maths teacher in my Junior school and I was falling behind in that subject. I can still remember him standing over me one day when I had given the wrong answer to a question his voice boomed out “are you stupid”?   Of course this caused titters amongst the rest of the class and I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.

Those words haunt me even to this day and from then on I convinced myself that I was far too stupid to understand maths.

Yet even in this much more enlightened society we continue to use words and phrases in our everyday speech that we know could hurt others even though we are not thinking of anyone specific at the time when we say them?

Social Media. One minute you can be smiling at pictures of cute babies and animals and the next minute you come across something that leaves you feeling both hurt and angry.   It was through Facebook recently that I saw the phrase ‘window licker’ used.

If you put the phrase into Google it makes uncomfortable reading.   On one website someone whose English was their second lanquage had asked the question what does this phrase mean?   the answer they received was   “retard”!

That brings me nicely onto the ‘R’ word. Another word that I hate and yet I hear it being used a lot.

Taken from the SCOPE website:-

It’s over 20 years since we changed our name from The Spastics Society to Scope.

In 1952, three parents of children with cerebral palsy set up The Spastics Society because no one would educate their children.

The organisation grew and changed to become a household name. But attitudes to disabled people changed as well. The word ‘spastic’ became a term of abuse. Suddenly, The Spastics Society’s name was holding it back.

We wanted to say something positive about disability. In 1994, The Spastics Society became Scope.

……………

How awful that a large organisation should have felt the need to change it’s name because it was being used as a term of abuse. Despite this we still hear the term ‘spaz’ or ‘spacca’ to describe someone who is clumsy or acting stupidly. We really have not moved on much in those 20 years and now a whole new generation is using the term probably having no idea of the history behind it.

My Granddaughter was born with an underdeveloped brain. At the time of writing she is still non verbal although we never give up hope. She will always need 24hr care. Having said that if you were to meet her you would have the pleasure of knowing a happy and loving little girl who has achieved many things against all odds.

Her ways of interacting are different from a lot of other children, she is unable to form words at the moment but she is very ‘vocal’ and has a range of different noises. She cannot control her limbs in the same way as others so her movements can look different.   She has issues with sensory processing and will often bite or lick an object just to get an awareness of what it is.   Our fingertips have lots of sensory nerves that feed signals to our brain when we hold an object, for my Granddaughter those signals are too weak in her fingertips but her oral perception is very strong hence the biting etc.

Have you just had a light bulb moment? Perhaps now you understand why I get really hurt by some of the words and phrases that I see and hear used as part of everyday speech.

Of course my Granddaughter is not the only one that is relying upon others to be her voice, there are children and adults all over the world who need our help and protection. Society has to change the way it perceives those with disabilities whatever they may be.   The Paralympics was very good in raising awareness that having a physical disability should not hold you back in life but what about those with mental disabilities? Those who cannot make their opinions known.

We can start today by making one small change at least. We can be mindful about the language we use and also explain to our children why it is not acceptable to use such words and phrases.   I politely replied to the comment seen on Facebook pointing out that comments like that did nothing to help integrate the more vulnerable into our society.

Shortly after we found out the extent of my Granddaughter’s disabilities I made a promise to her. I held her close and promised that as long as I was able I would always be there to help her and protect her and to be her voice if needed.   I intend to keep that promise.

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