DEAR ABBY: I was so glad to see the letter from "Irritated in Missouri" (Feb. 11), referring to people calling each other "retarded." I have a son with Down syndrome who is my absolute joy, and it breaks my heart to hear people use his disability as a derogatory insult. My son is my hero, and I am proud to be his mother. I cannot say his name without smiling.
No parent I know denies that their "special" children are mentally retarded, but to use the name of their disability in a derogatory and insulting manner is inexcusable. Thanks for letting me vent! -- PROUD TO BE SHANE'S MOM
DEAR PROUD: You're welcome. I, too, have heard the word "retarded" abused, and some of the people who have done it are in public life and should know better. When I printed that letter, it resonated with many readers who have family members with disabilities who also described how hurtful it is. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am the younger sister of a mentally retarded woman. Anyone who knows my sister knows she is sweet, funny and caring. She also has feelings and knows when she's being ridiculed, even if she doesn't always understand what is being said about her.
I have heard people my whole life use the word "retarded" as a derogatory slur. They stare and talk like we can't hear them when we're out with my sister. I was taught from an early age that teasing anyone for any reason is wrong. I would have been punished for behaving that way. I can understand the curiosity of small children. But older children and adults need a refresher course on basic manners, and parents and schools should stop turning a blind eye toward children who behave like this. -- MISS M. IN ORMOND BEACH, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: The letter from the special ed teacher and your response hit me emotionally. I am the sister of a mentally retarded individual, and my heart breaks every day when I see her struggle, her triumphs and her innocence.
Surely those teens and adults who use the term "retarded" in an abusive manner are not personally acquainted with an individual who is truly retarded. Mental retardation is no joy ride, nor is it the end of the world. Those who are afflicted are to be protected and loved by those who have the ability to do so.
My son has become a psychologist specializing in adults with mental retardation. My sister has taught me to deal with grief and anger, and also to have patience, gratitude, hope, acceptance, empathy and unconditional love. She has been my most distinguished teacher, and my world is a better place because she is in it. -- EVELIA IN CARSON CITY, NEV.
DEAR ABBY: I am the parent of a daughter with developmental disabilities, and it is painful when I hear a friend or colleague use the term as an insult. Thank you, Abby, for reminding people to treat others with respect. For people who would like to learn how to talk sensitively about people with disabilities, I recommend a Web site: � HYPERLINK "http://www.disabilityisnatural.com" ��www.disabilityisnatural.com�. There they will find commentary regarding "People First Language." I hope this is helpful. -- TRICIA T., ROSWELL, GA.