Special Olympics officials working to change the community’s vocabulary

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Wednesday is the 4th National Spreadthe Word to End the Word Awareness Day, a day to encourage the public to stopusing the words retard and retarded for good.

"The End the R-word Campaign isanother barrier we are trying to break by eliminating that word that has such anegative connotation to it that's been used freely by many," said Rickey Lopez,Area Director, Special Olympics.

In 2004 Special Olympics changed itsterminology from mental retardation to intellectual disabilities.

Deanna Ramsey's 10-year-old son Bradenwas diagnosed with autism and mental retardation or MR.

She says she doesn't want her childbullied for a condition he can't control.

"Its hard to see other people usethat word and even me even though his diagnosis is MR we don't MR we saymentally challenged," said Ramsey.

Ramsey works in the special needs ministryat her church as well as Lufkin Parks and Recreation and she says theopportunity to compete is vital in molding their self esteem.

"As a parent you want your childto feel as normal as possible and it can help them just grow as an individualfor camaraderie with other friends just to know you aren't alone."

Special Olympics Area Director Rickey Lopezsays the R-word is a degrading term and that special needs athletes are just asvaluable as anyone on and off the field.

"The beauty of Special Olympicsis that day when they are grabbing that metal and seeing their friends,competitions are like the super bowl for them," said Lopez.

Officials believe the change interminology will move the community forward and boost the confidence of theirathletes.

Special Olympics officials saybasketball season just ended for their athletes and they are moving into trackand field.

This year's spring games will be April26th and 27th.

For more information on the R-wordcampaign visit www.r-word.org

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