Photo By: Natalie McIntyre
In an effort to get students to understand and appreciate the diversity of Cam High, Sheyda Mesgarzadeh and Jolene Cedre, seniors, created Project R a club which is addressing what they believe is the inappropriate use of the word “retarded” to describe the intellectually disabled.
The members of Project R are attempting to promote “people first” language which puts the person before the disability. If you are addressing a child with a disability, such as Down’s syndrome, you would normally say the Down’s syndrome child, but the correct wording is the child with Down’s syndrome. By using “people first” language, Project R is emphasizing that a disability does not define their identity; rather, their disability is a merely an aspect of who they are.
Ms.Tiffany Sahli, club advisor and teacher of the autistic program, believes the usage of the R word is completely unnecessary and should not be considered a word at all. Sahli took part in the club so that some of her students can be a part of Project R. “We want to integrate our students with special needs with our general education population,” said Sahli. This will make people aware of the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities. “Just because they have social difficulties doesn’t mean they don’t want to be friends with you, they just don’t really know how to approach it.”
“I feel that it’s rude and wrong for the intellectually disabled to be treated differently, everyone is different in their own way and some people have more challenges,” said Cedre. “If you say the word to your friend, someone walking by may be intellectually disabled or know someone who is and it’s disrespectful.”
“The R word is just another way of using the N word and if it’s not socially acceptable to use the N word in society what makes the R word any different,”said Mesgarzadeh. “The way students are being treated is history repeating itself in a different way.”
Project R has meetings every Thursday during lunch in I-2. The club currently has over 40 members all of whom aim to make a difference in the special needs community.