Barrington High School's Best Buddies Club is bringing awareness of how hurtful derogatory language is for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Students joined the national campaign March 6, "Spread the Word to End the Word."
Best Buddies is a BHS club in which students without disabilities mentor students with disabilities.
"We want to let kids know we back them 100 percent. It is dehumanizing for a lot of these kids when they hear the word," said Special Services Aide Diana Emma.
Michael Deroche, Best Buddies public relations officer, explains the club and the Spread the Word campaign in this Q&A.
Why is Spread the Word Important?
Spread the Word to end the Word is important as an ongoing effort to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard” or “retarded.” It is important because respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. Using the R word, excludes people. Our mission is to include people. The mission of Best Buddies International is to put the R word out of business. We can do this, by humanizing people with intellectual abilities. Recognize they do have something to offer the world, and by keeping them down, through the use of segregating in society, and hurtful labeling, we are not only hurting them, but ourselves as a society.
How did you get involved with Best Buddies?
I was a three-sport athlete for years, playing baseball, basketball and football in grade school, middle school, and as an incoming freshman. A football injury knocked me out of all three sports when I couldn’t recover sufficiently enough from shoulder surgery to compete. My mom suggested I try something completely different. Look out a different window so to speak. I chose Best Buddies, because I have a cousin who has intellectual disabilities, and, well, I just kind of wanted to get in his world for awhile, and see what that was all about.
I’m really glad I did. I have learned that it's society’s standards that label these students disabled. But they’re not! They truly have extraordinary talents and gifts that if only people would take the time, they would see what I see. Amazing singers, professional quality; recall of amazing facts, no one but a computer, or an encyclopedia would have, but I know students who can spout off facts about weather, baseball, anything. That is not a disability! That is a useable skill that someone in our society could tap into, and maybe do something with. These students have a link that’s missing in our world, not theirs. It’s just how I feel. I am really glad I had the opportunity to see that there is more to do at BHS than just sports.
Do you think the videos and posters are making a difference?
Sure! They can’t hurt. Anything, posters, videos, whatever to get the message out effectively to raise the awareness that intellectual disabilities are not something to be hidden, segregated, and most certainly not abused through bullying or exclusion. I think the videos BHS students make are incredible. The video department really is top notch at BHS. But there is more we can and should do. Parents, educators and other adults are the most important advocates that a student with disabilities can have. It’s not just the students like me, who spend time involved in a club, it’s all of us. Society needs to step up, get involved, and lift up these kids, lead them to develop their own voice. All kids need to learn to advocate for themselves. Even developmentally delayed students can be taught and encouraged to advocate for themselves. It’s a life skill we all need to develop in school, and in life.
What kind of feedback have you had from fellow students?
After joining the club, I was astounded to see how many students wanted to participate. In school and out of school, kids ask me how they can get involved. This shows the club that we are making a difference and promoting what we believe is the right thing. It’s been a moving experience for me to see our club grow into something so extraordinary. I hope Best Buddies continues to grow in size each year, and develop a reputation for making a difference in our community and around the world.