Ohmygosh, Tru looks so little here! I wrote this post two years ago, but I’m sharing it here in honor of Spread the Word to End the Word Day. The campaign aims to end the use of the word retarded. And while we’re at it, can we just altogether stop poking fun at those with special needs? Here’s what prompted me to share from the heart…


Last week, I attended a meeting with a roomful of parents, all whom have kids with special needs. I didn’t want to be there. Nobody wants to be in that conference room. We’re insanely grateful for the resources and support, but we wish we didn’t need it.

Nobody ever starts a family thinking this will be part of the journey. This happens toother families, we tell ourselves. And because of that naiveté, I wasn’t always as compassionate as I should have been towards families walking this crooked path. I’m so embarrassed to admit that there was a time when I’d laugh at friends who used self-deprecating humor like “I’m such a retard!” or “what are you, slow!?” I might have even uttered that stuff myself. I didn’t think about how those wise {or not so wise} cracks furthered the prejudices against special needs kids and adults who cannot help the way they were born.

I don’t write a lot here about Truman’s specific needs; I think this was the last time. He is so much more than the labels put on him. I want him to be known for his contagious joy, for his growing brilliance, for his love of people and music and   trees and lights and puppies and babies and books and snuggles. I want you and everyone he meets to know all of this about him. Why? Because people make fun of what and who theydon’t know. But they think twice about doing so when they have a relationship with or affection for someone who’s the butt of a joke.

I believe connection breeds compassion.

If your beloved friends and colleagues come from different ethnic or spiritual backgrounds, you’re less likely to utter a racial or religious slur. If one of your favorite neighbors is lesbian, you’re less likely to criticize something by calling it “gay.” But it’s less likely you have regular interactions with someone who has special needs, which makes these innocents much easier to mock.

Last week, someone I know {though not well} posted a Facebook photo of himself with a befuddled, dorky look on his face, standing next to a sign that says “Special Needs Entrance.” When I skimmed the comment section below his picture, each “like” and “LOL” from his Facebook friends felt like daggers to the heart. It angers me to think that, years ago, I might have laughed at that kind of humor. And it saddens me to know that brand of ignorance continues.

Some of you might think I need to just relax or lighten up. But that’s not the nature of a mama bear like me. We moms {and dads, too} try to protect our cubs to no end – from cruelty, from prejudice, from harm. I pray Tru will never feel ostracized or ridiculed for being a little different. He is pure sunshine – and I’ll do my best to keep anyone or any joke from dimming his light, directly or indirectly.

By virtue of reading this, you are connected to me – and I’m so glad. My hope is that the next time you feel compelled to make fun of a disability or laugh at an insensitive joke, you’ll think of me…and then you’ll think of Tru…and maybe you’ll change your mind. And, in that act of kindness, you’ll change others’ minds, too.