By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor
Children at St. Bernadette Church have joined the Special Olympics campaign to curb the use of the word “retarded.”
About two dozen third-graders in the parish’s religious education program pledged — along with some of their parents — to avoid the word that children and adults alike sometimes use as an insult.
Special Olympics is trying to put a stop to that practice with its “R-word: Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. The organization’s website notes that the term retarded was once a clinical term used to describe someone with mental disabilities.
But it has become a derogatory term that offends mentally disabled people and their families, said Judy Montgomery, director of children’s formation at St. Bernadette.
“We want to be like Jesus,” she said during a recent interview. “Jesus was always lifting people up and would never hurt anybody. That word is a part of children’s speech and it’s not meant to be hurtful (to those with mental disabilities). But the children and adults need to be aware that it’s offensive.”
The pledge that the students took on April 29 says this:
“I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”
Montgomery added that St. Bernadette Church includes children with special needs in its religious education program, called “Growing in Faith Together” or GIFT.
She also said that the parish has established a group for families with special needs children. It offers families an opportunity to meet and share in fellowship, she said.