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What It's Like to Be Mocked for Your Disability

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I am 15 years old, and I’m on the autism spectrum. I’m also a harpist, I make dresses, and I love My Little Pony. Unfortunately, when people see the label “ASD” and my behavior that goes along with it, they tend to ignore all the other things about me. Recently, I had an autism meltdown in class. I was rocking back and forth and stimming, which eventually led to me having to be physically removed from my classroom of 30 or so neurotypical peers. I don’t make friends very easily, and in that class, I have one person who I can confidently call my friend. Needless to say, in a room full of 15- to 17-year-olds, some unfortunate words were used following this event.

The R-word. Retarded. It’s a word everyone who either has a developmental disability or has a child with one cringes at. Hearing that word used in front of me is heartbreaking. Hearing it used to describe me? I can’t even put my feelings on that into a coherent sentence. Well, later that day, I heard from this friend what exactly was said about me. People mimicked me stimming, rocking back and forth, humming. People called me “crazy.” People called me “retarded.”

The R-word is unfortunately thrown around far too often. It’s awful to have to sit there and hear it, day after day, knowing if you say anything you’ll be labeled as “too sensitive” or “politically correct.” Using respectful language for people with disabilities or any other marginalized group isn’t about politics; it’s about human decency.

So, for parents out there, I know what you’re thinking: “My child would never.” But you don’t know what they may do when you’re aren’t there. How peer pressure affects people. They might. Have conversations in your home about people with visible and invisible disabilities. Talk about respect for other people. Most importantly, teach them that they never know who it is they’re sitting next to when they use disrespectful words like that.

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Getty image by logan-00

Originally published: March 29, 2023
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