My husband recently was with Lucas and my mother-in-law at her long-time neighbor and friend's house. The neighbor is a lovely woman, with a great sense of humor and not a mean bone in her body -- although Betty* is nearly 70 years older than Lucas, they happen to share the same birthday.
She hadn't seen Lucas in some time and was commenting on how big he's getting and out of nowhere she added, "he doesn't have much of that retarded look." According to Tom, his Mom was stunned and they were both at a loss for words. We know she didn't mean any harm, and honestly, she just doesn't know any better. As I mentioned to Tom, Betty is from a generation where its acceptable and common place to call people with Down syndrome "monogloids."
It's at times like these that we as parents realize how far we've come, but how far we still have to go. Tom made a decision in that instance to not try to teach an old dog new tricks, but instead to reserve and focus his energies on educating those coming up in the world and those who raise them. Words matter and they can hurt...and ultimately, every one of us has a choice to make in the language we use and who we choose to be in the world.
*Name changed to protect her innocence.