Yesterday I noticed a Facebook memory that was shared by an acquaintance, she posted a picture of a broken ice tray in what I am sure was an epic attempt to get some ice. This person used the phrase"retard strength" in relation to the broken tray. I am pretty good at discerning what people intend while looking past their words. But what exactly did they intend to say with this reference? I googled the phrase to see what I may be missing and I was horrified. It's an actual popular phrase where in there is literally no other way to interpret it except for the very obvious reference to the super power strength that individuals who have a cognitive disability show when they reach crisis level frustration because they do not understand what is going on or are afraid and confused. The reference brings to my mind pained memories of calming down children who lash out in confusion. I wrote the following in a private message in response to this person's Facebook post, let's spread the word to end the word.
My own daughter has a cognitive disability and there is nothing funny about the remains of items that get broken in melt downs. There is nothing funny that should apply to the crisis response of any person who has reached such a stage of escalation that their adrenaline gives them pure strength. The part that people seem to find funny is that they are referring to other people who do not have the cognitive capacity to calm down or feel safe or to stop themselves before they do damage. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING good or funny about the embarrassment and regret when an individual realizes what they have done. As a support person, there is nothing applicable in the phrase and they way it is used that describes what it is like to be the person who is on the other end of the "retard strength" keeping everyone safe.
But.... there is a source of pride in the phrase "retard strength" - it does not apply to an ice tray. Let me tell you about true "retard strength". There is strength that sustains a person who is put down by the world over and over again. There is strength in learning to navigate everyday routines and tasks and to learn to do those things in a way that works for you. There is strength in every single hard-won victory and there is strength in all of the failed attempts of victories yet to come. There is strength in advocacy when someone stands up against demeaning phrases that would never ever be tolerated in any other setting when used against any other group of people. You would not tolerate a demeaning reference to women or a racial minority and I will not tolerate such references against folks who have more legitimate inner strength than most people will ever know. If you were ever wondering about what true retard strength is.... I proudly have "retard strength". I have spent every moment along side my child - coordinating, arranging, cheering, hoping, praying, advocating, worrying, celebrating, teaching, crying... we have retard strength and it has absolutely nothing to do with an ice tray or any of the references made when this phrase is used.