22 Respectful Ways to Respond When Someone Uses the R-Word


How many of us have been in a conversation with someone — a friend or coworker, perhaps, or a new acquaintance — and he or she casually uses the R-word in a derogatory way? It can be a difficult situation to navigate, especially with someone you’re not totally comfortable with. What’s the best way to express how problematic and hurtful that word can be?

We teamed up with Spread the Word to End the Word to ask our Facebook communities how they respond (respectfully) when that happens. These are just some of the great suggestions we received:

1. “Do you think you could use a different word? It’s hurtful to people I love dearly.” — Barb Weber Eltz

2. “You know, that’s really not a respectful word, and it’s not in my vocabulary because it’s very hurtful. I would kindly appreciate it if you wouldn’t use that word.” — Jennifer Colligan-Trevett

3. “Please don’t use that word. I find it very offensive.” — Rachie Firkin

4. “I need you to know it breaks my heart when you say that. You are belittling someone I love every time you use the word.” — Cassie Mareesie

5. “Using that word, in that way, can be hurtful to others. You are kind and creative. Can you find a word that more accurately says what you want but isn’t hurtful?” — Maureen Geurin

6. “You never know how a word like that is going to hit somebody. You never know who has a kid or a sibling or a friend who has that word lobbed at them in the ugliest way. It’s just better not to say it.” — Tiffany Howard

7. “Excuse me, but I’d like to ask you to refrain from saying that word. It certainly does not apply in the situation you are using it. If you are willing, I’d like to share with you how it has progressed from a medical term into the vile, hateful way it is used far too often now. At the least consider what you said and why.” — Rob Rau

8. “Can you please choose another word? I have a child with Down syndrome, and that word is not respectful of him.” — Julie Gerhart Rothholz

9. “It’s really important to be careful about the words we choose to use. In my head, I know you aren’t using that word to hurt me, but that doesn’t change the fact that, in my heart, it does. It would mean a lot to me if you could find different words to express what you are trying to say.” — Gabrielle Leah

10. “There are so many other words in our vocabulary that can be used. There is really no need to use the R-word.” — Sandi Eaglin Cooke

11. “Using that word is a sign of ignorance, and I know you are a well-educated person.” — Jennifer Harris

12. “Please don’t use that word. Have you tried saying ‘ridiculous’ instead?” — Shari J Gary

13. “Did you know I have a sister with special needs? She’s incredible and lights up my life!” — Alexis McCracken

14. “”You may not realize it, but that is no longer a socially acceptable word.”” – Cindy Colwell

15. “I’m autistic, [and] I ask that you don’t use that word around me please. Thank you.” — Arianna Lea Nyswonger

16. “Goodness, we need to find you a better word!” — Barbara Gracey

17. “Hey, that’s not cool.” — Trista McDermott

18. “You may not be aware, but there’s this campaign [called] Spread the Word to End the Word, and I signed the pledge.” — Dawne Trombi Benoit

19. “Were you aware that many people, including me, find that word offensive and inappropriate?” — Kristin Link

20. “Please don’t use that word in my presence. Many things I can deal with. Unfortunately, this one I find offensive. Please and thank you.” — Shawn Baltz

21. “That’s really not a nice word to use.” — Laura Steenerson

22. “Excuse me there, buddy, I couldn’t help overhear just now… you misused a word I don’t think you understand the meaning to, and unfortunately it is such an offensive and derogatory word that most people out of shock shy away and lose the courage to correct your use. You see, out of fear, years ago, some people used that word to classify those ‘other’ people who made them feel uncomfortable. To mark them as being less than. These ‘other’ people are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, our loved ones, and our friends.

“Since I know you wouldn’t stand for me calling the people in your life “less than,” how about we leave that word in the history books where it belongs, huh? Otherwise every time you use it, you’ll be proving that you in fact are less than. And to me, you seem like a good person. What do you say? No more R-word?” — Jim Mallon

Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Spread the Word to End the Word! You can head here to pledge to stop using the R-word. It’s a step toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.



Family Outraged After Boy With Special Needs Sent Home From School in a Diaper


On February 16 a young student was allegedly sent home on the bus from Mint Valley Elementary school in Longview, Washington, without pants on. The child, who has a learning disability and isn’t being named currently, got home wearing just a backpack, shirt and diaper after he soiled himself at school, KOIN 6 News reported.

Sandy Catt, Longview School District spokeswoman, says the policy for situations like these is not to send children home in diapers without pants on.

“Typical protocol would be that the child would be cleaned up and outfitted with some sort of unisex loaner sweats or something like that,” Catt told KOIN 6 News. “That protocol was not followed, and from a district level we have investigated that.”

Photo of the boy wearing a diaper

The district allegedly communicated with the family about the incident but to what extent is still unclear and the entire situation is under investigation by the school district.

The same school previously made headlines in 2012 for using a padded isolation box in special needs classrooms, The Daily News reported. It was used for four years at Mint Valley as a place for special needs children to de-escalate without harming themselves or others and as a voluntary refuge for children with autism to calm themselves after too much sensory stimulation. It was removed after parents expressed concerns over whether or not the isolation box was being used as a means of punishment and it was eventually removed.

Despite this history, Catt said she doesn’t think Mint Valley staff have any deficiencies when working with special needs children.

“I believe the staff at Mint Valley are very compassionate and have availed themselves to a number of trainings,” Catt told The Daily News. “There have been numerous conversations at the school … and working with the family through that has been important today,” she said.

Get more on the story from the video below: 


The Mighty reached out to the Longview School District for comment but have yet to hear back.


‘Accomable’ May Be the Airbnb of Accessible Travel


Accomable is an Airbnb-like website which lists disability-accessible properties. It has already started making travel much easier for people with mobility issues and special needs.

The service finds accessible properties around the world. Its simple mission, according to the website, is “to enable anyone to go anywhere.

The founders of the service, Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley, both have spinal muscular atrophy and use motorized wheelchairs. The pair, who met as children at a SMA support group, created Accomable after discovering the need for it firsthand — they’re avid world-travelers.

They created the site so all accessible properties can be listed in one place, including detailed information about the property and available services.

See an example of an Accomable listing below:

Accomable, which was launched in June 2015, was given some support early on from the Skoll Foundation, a charity founded by Jeffrey Skoll, eBay’s first president, which supports start-ups with a social purpose. Madipalli, a former London lawyer, did the coding for the website himself.

The site hopes to make life easier for all people with disabilities and mobility issues, including the elderly. The service is also seeking to eventually involve accessible car hire companies, medical equipment hire companies and disability insurance providers, all on one platform, CNN reported.

Sibley has recently left the venture, but Madipalli is now talking with investment syndicates about further funding.

“What we’re trying to do is create the same experience for a disabled person booking travel, as an everyday person would have,” Madipalli told CNN. “For some people that may be this mind-blowing effect, for others it might just be the chance to put their feet up under the sun.”

Mary Evelyn Smith, a Mighty contributor and school librarian from Columbus, Ohio, has a a son who uses a wheelchair, and is excited by Accomable. Smith told The Mighty finding accessible places to stay can be tricky. Simeon, 3, has spina bifida and uses a manual wheelchair so the Smith family normally opts for hotels to ensure accessibility. But, Smith says it would be nice to have the option of staying in a bed and breakfast or a condo.

Smith also believes a helpful feature of the site will be its clear definition of what “accessible” means, which she says is often misinterpreted by renters. She recalls an incident once where her family booked an “accessible” beach house, only to show up and find several stairs leading to the elevator.

“Since my son is still young and small enough to be carried if needed, travel isn’t a huge issue just yet, but looking to the future I know it will be a concern,” Smith told The Mighty. “Even at this young age, my son shouldn’t have to sacrifice his independence to experience the joy of travel.”

“I want my son to be able to explore his world and travel as much as he’d like and I want him to be able to do that independently,” she added. “This is a great step towards making that possible.”


12 Things Special Education Teachers Love the Most About Their Jobs


When we asked special education teachers to share a secret they wish the rest of the world knew, the vast majority responded by sharing how much they love their jobs:

“My job isn’t ‘sad.’”

“It is the best job in the world.”

“I wake up every day with a smile.”

After reading such beautiful responses, we had to know more. We asked the special education teachers in our Facebook community to describe what they love the most about their jobs. Their answers are sure to put a smile on your face, too.

1. “The bond we make with our students is incredible.” — Lexie Nooyen

2. “When your student has that ‘aha!’ moment, no matter how small it is, it’s a reason to celebrate.” — Mandy Ree


3. “I love making them laugh, and they make me laugh every day no matter what challenges we all are facing.” — Becky Mahan

4. “The best part of my job is all of it. I love the meaningful relationships I build with the families, the amazing team I have that helps me grow as an educator, the trust I build with my students and the magic I feel when students smile, work collaboratively and believe in themselves.” — Nadia Sinno

5. “I love it when we are working towards a goal and I get to see the student be successful in it. Makes the hard times so worthwhile.” — Sue Stewart

6. “The eight little faces that trust me with their futures every day!” — Denise Ertl Hansen

7. “Watching a child learn to advocate for themselves. And the dance parties, definitely the daily dance parties!” — Emily Gusset


8. “My students have taught me more (and continue to teach me more) than any of the universities I have attended.” — Cissy Harland Carter

9. “When something finally ‘clicks’ and my student is finally able to perform that skill we’ve been working on for months.” — Jennifer Honeycutt

10. “Arriving every day to a job I love and look forward to.” — Lisa Harris

11. “One word: pride. Pride in the little things, the big things and everything in between.” — Bailey Sonday

12. “The long-lasting relationships I’ve developed with awesome parents and their children! You’ve all made me a better person, and I’m blessed to be a part of your lives. I’m grateful for you!” — Kori LaDe Thomas


If you’re a special education teacher, what would you add to this list? Share your response in the comment section below.

Editor’s note: Some answers have been shortened for brevity/clarity.

Related story: 24 Secrets of Special Education Teachers

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A Letter From a Special Education Teacher Who’s Also a Special Needs Mom


I recently wrote a story for The Mighty: “To the Special Needs Parents Who Worry About Their Kids In School.” I told parents not to worry, that their kids would be well looked after. I promised their educators would help them thrive. I wrote it to ease the anxiety felt by so many parents whose children were starting school soon. I was surprised and horrified as I began receiving comments describing the negative experiences some parents had in regards to their children and schooling.

I am part of a wonderful team of special education teachers who go above and beyond to do what is best for the students we teach. It angered me to hear that not all educators are dedicated to providing a safe, supportive and engaging learning environment for their students. And it saddened me that perhaps I had made some empty promises to some worried parents.

At the time of writing this, it is the beginning of the summer school holidays here in Australia. I should be enjoying time with my children, going to the beach and excitedly preparing for Christmas. But instead, I have spent the past week fighting for my own child with special needs to receive additional support in the school environment. Right at this moment, I’m feeling shattered. Although I know most educators are passionate, dedicated and have adequate knowledge in regards to children with special needs, it is becoming obvious that this is not always the case.

I have heard of children being denied access to education because of their differences. I have seen children being misunderstood because their educator does not have adequate knowledge of their needs. I have read various horror stories in the news recently about the treatment of students with special needs and schools not having the resources for our children to access the curriculum. This is not OK! We need to break down the barriers so that all children have equal access to an education.

To all the educators out there: Please take the time to get to know the children you teach. Do your best to make the learning environment safe, inclusive and supportive for them. Parents don’t expect perfection; they just need to see you are doing your best to make their child’s education enjoyable, achievable and meaningful. Some of the best teachers my son has had have openly admitted they have little knowledge of autism. But they sat in on therapy sessions, did their research and listened to my concerns and suggestions. This meant more to me as a parent than words can describe.

Most importantly, communicate with parents. An open and honest home-school relationship is crucial for many reasons. Take on board any feedback or suggestions given by parents, doctors and therapists. Use it to better yourself as an educator.

To the parents who have children with additional needs: Fight for them! Be their advocate! Know your child’s rights and make sure they are being met. You know your child better than anyone. Make yourself heard. Your child deserves an education as much as any other. Value the educators who strive to give your child the best education possible and advocate for your child when their educator isn’t providing them with an adequate learning environment.

Most of the time your children will be well looked after in the school environment. Most of the time your child’s educators will go above and beyond to help them thrive. But unfortunately there will be instances where this won’t be the case. Hopefully in time, these instances will become fewer and fewer, and all children will receive what they need most from their schooling. Respect. Understanding. Inclusion. Acceptance. Equal access to an education.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected moment with a teacher, parent or student during your (or your loved one’s) school year. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


13 Tips for Moms Who Want to Make Hospital Time Easier


Just over six years ago, our son Lucas was given a diagnosis of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). During that time, I have spent more hours in hospital wards and waiting rooms than I care to remember. Hospital appointments have pretty much become part of our life, and while Lucas did have three clear years of treatment, there were still annual checkups and x-rays.

I have some tips for all you hospital moms that I really hope someone out there will find useful:

1. Be nice to everyone — not just the top doctors, but also the porters who wheel your child down to theater, other parents, cleaners, the nurses and others. Being nice, smiling and taking an interest in others is easy, and it also means they might want to help you and go out of their way to make your stay easier.

2. This is not easy, but try not to show your child your fear. If you need to cry or vent, walk away, go and get some fresh air, but don’t let them see your pain. They need you to be strong for them. When Lucas was bought back from theater this time, we had an hour or so when he was in extreme pain, and I wanted to stop it so much because I couldn’t bear to see him in pain. I stood away with a nurse for a couple of minutes, got myself together and then went back to his side and made sure he knew it was going to be OK — and it was.

3. Try to get a bed for your child by the window. This isn’t always possible, but if you can, it lets in daylight, and since hospital wards tend to be hot and stuffy, a little fresh air is lovely.

4. Find out where the linen cupboard is. This way you can change sheets yourself, find towels and even make up your own bed if you are lucky enough to have one.

5. Know your route to the hospital, and time it if you need to. Find where you need to go, what time you need to be on a ward and also be sure about the parking, how much there is and if you need to pay. We are lucky at the RNOH that parking is free, but this isn’t the case for everyone, so it is worth looking into.

6. Try to get some sleep if you can. Sounds hard when you are woken up every couple of hours to give your child medicine or speak with consultants, but the more rested you can be, the easier it is to deal with events that occur during your stay.

7. Take bottles of water and snacks in with you. Yes, there are shops on site, but if you are in for a while, this can get expensive and the selection isn’t always that great.

8. Take in antibacterial spray and wipes as well as hand gel. You can’t be too careful.

9. File everything. When we started out on our DDH journey, I had odd bits of paper in Lucas’s red book, but it soon became apparent this wasn’t the right solution. These days where we go, the grey file goes, and it has every document in it ever issued.

10. Don’t throw your magazines and newspapers away — pass them onto other parents and given other children on the ward comics you have finished with. Little things go a long way when you are on the inside.

11. Understand this isn’t forever. I know we were in hospital for endless weeks and months, and for that I am so grateful, and of course I don’t know what lies ahead of Lucas. Take in books and magazines, a tablet, some work, games and puzzles.

12. Use the Monkey Wellbeing resources to talk about the time in hospital and explain to your child what might happen and how they might feel.

13. Make friends with other parents. Strike up conversations. Meditate. Do what you can to make this time easier for you, your child and the rest of your family. In time, I hope things will get easier.

Mom with her two sons

Follow this journey on Just Because I Love.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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