I've always wanted to start a blog about my brother, and I think that today is a good as time as any. Today is the annual awareness day for the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign. The campaign's goal is to spread awareness about why the word "retard" is hurtful and inappropriate. This organization has always been very important to me because I grew up in a home where saying the "r-word" was worse than failing a test, and I grew up among the generation who constantly uses this word to describe someone or something as stupid or foolish.
My brother means the world to me, he has touched my life in ways that I cannot even describe. I wanted to start this blog so that he can touch lives like he has touched mine, our mom's, our brother's, and many others'. I am the person I am because of him and I have learned more from him from the countless classes and jobs that I have participated in. For someone to have so many obstacles and still get up everyday with a smile on his face amazes me. Watching Sammy go through each of his days made me realize how much we take for granted the simplest of tasks. He works his hardest to get dressed, communicate, do things like get a bowl out of the cabinet, etc. He is the hardest worker I know -- which is why the "r-word" infuriates me. By using this word, a person is saying someone or something is "less than ideal." My brother isn't less than ideal... he is perfect.
I know that many people don't understand this campaign or why this word can be hurtful. Why is any word hurtful? Just because you don't mean what you say to come across as hurtful, doesn't mean there isn't someone passing by or the person you're talking to isn't negatively affected by it. I understand that many people use this word, just like they use a word like "fag" (which I also disagree with its inappropriate use). That's what this campaign is about -- to make people aware of how much words can hurt.
Does Sammy look like a retard? Does Sammy seem like he is "less than ideal?" No, and no. Sammy is amazing. He is my hero, all I am is his sister. Please stand up for him and others like him... please PLEDGE NOW at www.r-word.org and encourage others to do the same. Remember, today isn't the only day you shouldn't use this word; this is a worldwide, year-long campaign.
Autism from a sibling's point of view...
My name is Paige and I am 26 years old. I graduated from Towson University with a Psychology Bachelors Degree and from Johns Hopkins with a Post-Bacc Certificate in Education of Autism and other Pervasive Disorders at . I recently left my job at Kennedy Krieger Institute and began my Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at University of South Florida. My younger brother, Sammy, is 20 and has Autism. He is non-vocal, unaware of safety, is not toilet trained, cannot get himself dressed, and has difficulty with everyday activities that we all take advantage of. He works harder every single day of his life than anyone I know and he always does it with a smile on his face. He is my true hero and inspiration and because of him, I have dedicated my life to advocating and creating opportunities for individuals with Autism. I hope that I can make him proud and this blog is just a small part of the awareness I hope I can create about Autism and support other siblings impacted by Autism. I love you Sammy - thank you for everything.