**The following is a guest blog post co-authored by Samuel Fawley & Eddie Barbanell. Barbanell is a Special Olympics athlete, Special Olympics International Board Director and Vocal Advocate of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.**
Hello everybody, my name is Eddie Barbanell, and you probably all know me from the hit movie “The Ringer,” and I’m here to talk about my story and the words “retard” and “retarded” and the hurtful and degrading effects of those words and I’m also hear to talk about how those hurtful words are used in comedy movies like Tropic Thunder and The Change-Up and how the film makers use the R-word in those movies in the name of humor, but I’m not laughing.
I was diagnosed with Down syndrome but it is just a meaningless word that does not stop me from pursuing my dreams, hopes and talents and abilities. I went to elementary school middle school and high school and all the kids bullied me laughed at me calling me hurtful names and my teachers were putting me in special ed classes and they were torturing me and making me feel not accepted. When I was in P.E. in school the kids were hiding behind the bleachers and throwing rocks at me and calling me “retarded” and I cried the coach was getting me in trouble when the kids that were causing me pain got away with it and they were laughing at me and putting a label on me.
It’s not fair I should not be treated this way.
They treated me like an animal. I don’t deserve this. When I was going home after school the kids did not want me to be around them because I have a disability. Then I overcame my disability by advocating and making a difference towards people with intellectual disabilities. Being encouraged by my family and friends and my board of directors for Special Olympics that changed my life through Tim Shriver and his family and my movies that I have been in. I’m normal and as a human being and I’m now included and being a valued part of society. I believe that everyone has a right to be treated with respect.
I am ‘differently abled’ not disabled, as Tim Shriver calls it. Fortunately we’ve been making a difference with our R-word campaign, but unfortunately there are still some people out there who are still calling all of us Special Olympians the R-word and it still hurts us more than you could imagine!
Some people like to use it as a joke or maybe use it when they don’t mean to be hurting us, like in movies such as Tropic Thunder or The Change-Up. For example, in the movie The Change Up, in one scene in the beginning of the movie, Ryan Reynolds who plays a bachelor who has never settled down, visits his long-time friend Jason Bateman; he sees his twins in their high chairs and says, “Why aren’t they talking – what are they retarded?” I thought that was offensive enough but then he says, “and this one, he looks Downsy.” (That last word is a derogatory term for people who have down syndrome.)
So now I’m asking all of you good folks out there to please think before you speak and take the pledge to not use the R-word.
**Listen to Eddie and Johnny talk about why they don’t use the R-word.**