“Spread the Word to End the Word” encourages people to think before they say the “r-word,” and some at the University are pushing the national campaign on campus.
Youth with and without intellectual disabilities established the “Spread the Word to End the Word” movement at the 2009 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit. Since then, the movement has spread to universities nationwide.
“This is hurtful to people with intellectual disabilities and other developmental delays,” Rice said. “It not only hurts them but the family members who love them and also people like me that work with them in education and other support in the community.”
Graduate student Catherine Hauth presented a bill before Student Government Senate on Sept. 3 for “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Hauth encouraged each senator to take the pledge and pass along the message.
The bill passed unanimously. Rice encourages students to take the pledge to stop using the “r-word” at www.r-word.org. The movement also utilizes social media — @EndtheWordLSU on Twitter — to reach more students.
In March, “Spread the Word to End the Word” will hold a table-sit outside the Student Union to spread awareness with the hope that more students will take the pledge.
“We would like to see LSU be a nationwide leader as far as building an inclusive community,” Rice said.Assistant Director of the Office of Orientation and Adviser for LSU Ambassadors Kelli Webber said she hopes her son will be able to attend an inclusive university where the word “retarded” is no longer used so freely. Webber’s son, Parish, has Down syndrome.
“Whenever [Parish] was born, we did not know he was going to have Down syndrome,” Webber said. “It was a little bit of a shock to us.”
Webber said she was not worried about having a son with Down syndrome. Instead, she was concerned about how people would treat him.
Webber recalled the first time she heard the word “retarded” after having Parish. A friend of the family said the word without any intention of hurting Webber or her son.
“It made my blood run cold when I heard it,” Webber said. “I thought if someone that I loved and someone that loves me and loves my son can say it, I know other people in my life are going to be saying this word.”
Webber said the LSU Ambassadors have taken on the cause and volunteered at events like the Buddy Walk to raise awareness and promote acceptance of those with Down syndrome.
Webber said her duty as a part of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” movement is to share her story.
“I’m basically just a mama who has a son and is fighting to be sure that he always feels important, that he feels respected and that he feels worth and self esteem,” Webber said.