To The Dad Who Called His Daughter The R-Word

by Jamie Henderson
Jamie Henderson

I never saw your face and you never saw mine. But the words that you said to your daughter have bothered me since that night and have fueled this post. So in a way, I thank you.

I was sitting in my seat next to my good friend when I heard you. The small remark that you made towards your daughter that left me so upset. We were all there to enjoy a concert, and I had a good time, but I still can’t stop thinking about what you said.

It was so hot in the 90 degree heat and we were all getting antsy waiting for the band to come on. I was just enjoying the occasional breeze when I heard your daughter a few rows behind me crack a joke. I smiled and laughed to myself because she cracked a good one. But then I heard you reply, “You are a retard,” and my heart dropped.

I know that you will never know how much that hurt me. That’s okay. I just want others to know that what you said is completely inappropriate. That word is used so casually that a lot of people don’t even realize how much it hurts. Not just me, a special needs parent, but those with special needs as well.

This word is part of our language and I can’t change that. We all grew up saying it. Even I am guilty of it. But now that we are raising children in this judgmental and cruel world, we owe it to them, as well as our future grandchildren, to teach them that these words are no longer acceptable.

Sir, I hope that you realize that what you said most likely hurt your daughter. And I hope that when she has children that they are typical because special needs children do not need a grandfather that uses hateful words like that. And if you are lucky enough to have a special needs grandchild, I hope that you accept them for who they are and you embrace them and help me fight this fight against the “R” word.


Fellow concert goer, special needs mom, advocate, and writer.