Posted by: sonewjersey | March 7, 2012

Spread the Word to End the Word

by Maria Caiafa, Middle School Principal, Northfield Community Schools

When the opportunity to partner with the Special Olympics New Jersey for Spread the Word to End the Word Day was presented by one of our teachers, Amy Kennedy, I jumped at it. Inclusion represents everything we as a school are trying to impart to our students. Respect, responsibility, trust, family and caring are all words that are represented in the word inclusion.

Our job as educators is to empower our children to recognize their strengths, nurture and develop their character and foster their ability to make positive changes in the world around them. A change in attitude is the smallest and most accessible modification we can help our children make.

Our attitude impacts every aspect of our lives and those around us. If we have the ability to help students understand the true meaning of inclusion and model behavior that promotes those characteristics, then we are truly doing our job as educators. We are providing our students with a strong framework from which they will develop and make positive, thoughtful life decisions.

These choices can help them understand that everyone walks a different path in life and everyone has been given different gifts, different challenges to overcome and different skills. It is our job to respect those gifts, challenges and skills and work together to make our paths in life not less difficult, but easier to conquer, because we know, although our path is our own, we have friends walking beside us.

It is time we Spread the Word to End the Word and build awareness for society to stop and think about its’ use of the R-word. That R-word is something hurtful and painful – “retard” or “retarded.” Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and friends. The R-word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.

Pledge to eliminate the R-word from everyday speech. Visit to make your pledge today.



  1. Therefore be it resolved that effective this 22nd day of February, 2012 the Hamilton Township Board of Education names the 14th day of March ’Aware Because We Care’ Day.

    On this day the students, staff and Board of Education take a stand to raise awareness of the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the words “retard” and “retarded.” We will commit to continue working to reverse the stigma that is destructive to the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and a barrier to their growth.

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