Aloha For Those With Intellectual Disabilities

By Tracey Bender, Special Olympics Hawaii Project UNIFY Coordinator

I have experienced firsthand the devastation and pain that hurtful language, such as the “R-word,” can cause individuals with intellectual disabilities. We all have been there. Sometimes words can hurt more than sticks or stones.


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More than 20 schools across the state held activities as part of the Spread the Word to End the Word Day, including these Farrington High students. The campaign works to encourage individuals to make the pledge to stop using the R-word | Photos from Special Olympics Hawaii

Whether you’ve heard someone say it in passing or maybe even used it yourself without a second thought, the connotation of the word is negative, and intentional or not, it conjures up a painful stereotype of people with intellectual disabilities.

For some, this word has become a part of everyday conversation, rattled off without a blink of the eye.

And it shouldn’t be.

This month, Hawaii students are joining individuals around the world to take a stand and put an end to the use of the “R-word” (retard).

Throughout the month of March, more than 20 schools across the state will conduct activities, through pledge drives and youth rallies, to raise awareness of the painful effects of the R-word.

Established in 2009, Spread the Word to End the Word was created by youths with and without intellectual disabilities to rid the word “retard(ed)” from everyday speech. The campaign works to turn up the volume on the dehumanizing and hurtful use of the R-word and encourage individuals to abolish its use.

I hope you’ll join these brave youths and help us write a future that is free from hurtful language. If you haven’t already taken the pledge to end the use of the R-word and would like to make a commitment of acceptance, you can do so at

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