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Siblings who have a brother or sister with a disability are speaking out on social media saying NO to the use of derogatory terms such as ‘retard’ and ‘spaz’.

Earlier this year, Thames girl Indie Oliver-Clarke experienced a deep loss when her dear brother Leon passed away. Since then, Indie has pondered her feelings and thoughts in relationship to Leon and now feels she owes it to him to encourage others to show understanding and kindness rather than using words with disrespectful connotations toward people with disabilities and health impairments.

Indie recently posted on Facebook her perspective on name calling and since then it has encouraged her friends Tyl’a Waetford-McGrath and Brittany Davis-Havill who also have a sibling with a disability to post their own thoughts on the same issue. Their heartfelt posts are receiving an enormous amount of positive feedback and it is inspiring to see New Zealand youth use an influential and far reaching tool such as social media to share their strong messages to the world. Here is what Indie, Tyl’a and Brittany have to say.

Indie

Hey guys, I wanted to put something out there for everyone to think about. I feel I owe it to my brother and others like him to say something.
Next time you go to call someone a retard, think about what you’re actually saying. A long time ago that word was used to define a person with an intellectual or physical disability, but now we have altered it’s purpose to have a derogatory connotation that we seem to use to put someone down. Whether you mean to have that connection to its original definition or not you are still being incredibly disrespectful and indirectly hurting those who do live with a disability and the people who love and surround them, and they do not deserve it. Mocking someone by putting on a stupid voice or calling them down syndrome because you think its funny isn’t cool, it doesn’t matter if you mean it as a joke. Please, I urge you to take this in and think about it, as a person who grew up with a brother who had special needs it feels personal every time I see it happen, like you’re directly putting him down, and there are so many more siblings and people out there who feel them same. Please think about it, thanks.
Just want to make you proud LJ xx

Brittany

Special needs. What does that mean to you? For people like Indie, Tyl’a and I, it means we get to be big sisters to some of the most beautiful people in the world. But for others of you it means retard, it means spaz, downie or extra. It’s nothing more than a way you mock others or tease your friends when they do something out of the ordinary. Having Tuscany as my sister is one of the biggest privileges I have in life but I also have a duty as her sister to spread awareness. The labels like ‘retard’ have become too common, the whispers and laughs at others in society just because their brains aren’t wired the same as yours is something I see all too often. And trust me, for siblings like us we feel protective for all people with special needs. I can’t explain why but something inside us catches when we hear people talking like that, as if it was to our own sibling. For those of you who have met Tuscany, Leon, or Cullen you 

know how much richer and more beautiful the world is for having them in it. We as siblings are their voices and my voice is telling you to think about how you express yourself, what you say and who you are labeling. We miss you Leon, but what you brought to this world and the impact you had on people is something that will always be cherished.

Tyl’a

As most of you know my brother has special needs, cerebral palsy to be exact and I feel as his sister I am responsible for making people more aware of how stupid names and slang can affect people. Indie has reminded me of the poor use of the word “retard” in society and how much it has become a part of our every day language. I hear this word at least once a day. The word retard used to define a person with an intellectual or physical disability, but now is being used to label someone when they’re either doing something stupid, if they muck up a simple task or if they’re slow at doing something they must be a “retard”. I want you guys to really think about what you 

are saying when you say this to someone, having a brother who does muck up simple tasks because the messages from his brain to his senses get jumbled up, having a brother that does take longer to reply to simple questions sometimes because his processing time is a bit longer than usual isn’t something to make fun of! My brother and Indie’s brother are the most loving people I have ever met and working as a teacher aide at a school full of children with special needs has opened my eyes to a whole different aspect of society that people don’t get to see, it’s not cool to say someone is a ‘downie’ (Down syndrome) when they can’t do simple tasks! I mean come on guys, we live in 2017! You’d think people would be more considerate of others by now, but until then, us siblings will always be there to stick up for our siblings – whatever it takes  love and miss you Leon.

Parent to Parent would like to thank Indie, Tyl’a and Brittany for allowing us to share their messages. These inspiring young ladies have attended our SibSupportNZ programmes over the years, and two have gone on to become sibling leaders. It is amazing for us to see them bond together and we hope we can help form the same special connections with future siblings of the SibSupportNZ programme. 

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