Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

"Haha, you're such a retard! That's so retarded!" I've heard many students use these types of phrases throughout school to make fun of someone who made a silly mistake or as an adjective to describe odd or stupid. What they do not realize is that these remarks should not be taken as a joke. People with disabilities are not a matter to be laughed at. When I interviewed some Latinitas, most of them said that they do use these expressions, but they "never use it to be mean to people" and most teens would agree. When in reality they are being mean, even if their intensions are different. Though pronouncing someone as mentally retarded is politically incorrect and should not be used anymore, it is still not right to adopt it as an everyday word for silly mistakes. Teens probably use these remarks because they do not really understand what mental disabilities are or how other teens are affected by them.

My sister, Rebecca, is 16 years old. When she was a baby, she was very quiet and would sleep all the time, never responding to anyone. She was classified as developmentally delayed. When she was 11, she was diagnosed with autism. What is autism? Autism is a development disorder that begins at birth or within the first two and a half years of life. Most children with autism appear perfectly normal in appearance, but their behavior is confusing, misleading and different from those of average children. When they grow up, they remain impaired in their ability to communicate and socialize. Its hard for some of them to express their own thoughts or emotions. According to, "if someone has autism his or her brain has trouble making sense of the world." Since dealing with change is very hard, being on a repeatitive schedule is more comfortable for them. Sometimes sounds might seem louder, lights brighter or smells stronger and this can frustrate them causing them to "act out" and have tantrums. "For some reason, some of the cells and connections in the brain of a person with autism - especially those that affect communication, emotions, and senses - do not develop properly or get damaged." It is unknown why, because the human brain is too complicated. One out of 150 children are diagnosed with autism. It is commonly found in boys more than girls in a 4-to-1 ratio.

Living with a sister with autism is hard. You have to learn how to communicate and be very patient. Honestly, my sister changed my life. If she was "normal," I do not think i would be talking about autism or be as informed - and that is a big problem! Teens do not understand most disabilIties, making it easier to just forget about it and act like nothing is wrong. Schools should inform teens better because people like my sister are amazing! Rebecca, even though its hard for her, just wants to fit in. She's like every other teenager in the world. She is really funny and is very comforting. When you need her, she is always there with a hug and a huge smile on her face! If you learn about children with disabilities and get the opportunity to you'll find that you've opened the doors to a whole new unique person and you will not regret it!

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Comment by Latinitas Intern on July 20, 2009 at 12:21pm
Thanks for talking about autism. I think as the disorder gets more media attention, it's important to understand what it actually is and how it affects the lives of those with autism and their families.




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