In mid-April, the California State Senate passed a bill prohibiting the words “mentally retarded” from being used in any of its laws. The new replacement words: intellectual disability. When this becomes law, California will join the federal government and 42 states in prohibiting the “R-word.”
People unfamiliar with the lifelong pain many children with intellectual disabilities experience due to being taunted as “mentally retarded” simply don’t understand the necessity for such a change. But Andrea Moynihan of Austin, Texas, understands. Her daughter Mollie at three months old acquired viral meningoencephalitis, which caused brain inflammation and cerebral palsy.
“(Mollie) is 11 and a fifth grader now,” said 44-year-old Moynihan in a telephone interview. “She has some fine and gross motor issues, her coordination is a little off, and her paralyzed side (from meningoencephalitis) hasn’t fully caught up yet. She hasn’t been able to ride a bike because the balancing, pedaling, and steering is too much for her. However, she has played basketball on a regular kids team and in her four years has made all of two baskets. She definitely isn’t the best player, but she has a great attitude and tries really hard.”
Recently, Moynihan has been upset at an Austin business owner who calls his business “Short Bus Subs.” In essence, the business is a former mini-school bus transformed into a mobile restaurant. Many school districts across America exclusively use “short” (or half-sized) buses to transport children with disabilities. Some immature people derisively call it the “retard” bus.
Moynihan explained, “Mollie rode that type of bus in pre-kindergarten while getting special services. Seeing that term seep into our culture really sets my teeth on edge. It’s just not acceptable. Millions of kids ride that type of bus and they don’t deserve to be derided or mocked. If you do an Internet search on the words ‘short bus’ you will be absolutely appalled by what you find. There’s not a nice meaning to it and (with the mobile restaurant) there is no escaping the inference.”
To illustrate her point: Moynihan recently overheard a conversation between teens at a local mall. One teen did something silly and another replied, “Way to go, short bus!” Moynihan has asked the restaurant owner to consider changing the name, but to no avail. The words sting. She doesn’t understand why he can’t change the name to “School Bus Subs.”