That word, retardation, and the related one, retarded, are not well liked these days. Lately, though, I've been using them more, and trying to reclaim them as acceptable. Why? Because they say something clearly that seems to be like the Voldemort of special needs talk---it that can not be spoken. Autism is fine, but people often say to me "She's autistic, but she's very bright, right? She's probably going to be a professor or a musician or something? She's not...slow...is she?" Well, I can't predict the future, but I can say as of right now, Janey is retarded. It's not a evil word. It means she is behind intellectually. I think at one point it was probably the politically correct way to say it---it meant she might catch up some day, she's just slower. But that's not how it ended up being used, and when I say it, I mean it as it's usually thought to mean. I don't think Janey is ever going to catch up. I've never been told her IQ outright---she's been tested several times during studies, but they generally say it was hard to complete the test, or her non-cooperative nature makes the results hard to say, etc. But I know if they did say them, they would be very low. She is functioning in most ways about like an 18 month old. She talks a little, she understands simple commands, she knows familiar people, etc. But she can't consistantly identify any shape, color, letter, number, word, she can't understand concepts like "yesterday" or "Christmas" or "surprised" or "farm". At school and at home, we have been working on those basic concepts for 4 years at least. She hasn't learned them. She might someday, but I am unsure.
So why do I say all this? To put her down, to be depressing? Not at all. I saw it because I prefer to work with the truth. Janey being retarded doesn't lessen her worth as a person, doesn't make me love her less, doesn't make me try less to help her. On the contrary, if I know what can be reasonably expected, I will work all the harder to make sure she accomplishes that. If I know that it's unreasonable to expect her to get concepts like "wait a minute!" I will find another way to get that point across. I won't frustrate her with workbooks that are far beyond her. I won't ask her questions she just can't answer. I will find a way to encourage her strengths---her singing, her love of rhyme and poetry, her dancing. I will love the real Janey, not my dream of a different Janey.