My Brother Rad: Redefining the R-word

Were you the group of teenage boys in the store mocking “that kid”, or the girls whispering and laughing at him? Well if you were, I’d like to introduce myself.

My name is Amanda, and I heard what you were saying. I didn’t think you were funny, or cool. You were hurtful.

Now let me introduce you to my older brother, Rad. He’s the person you were laughing at and making fun of.

Amanda & Rad

Amanda & Rad

Rad is a human, just like me and you – but too many people use the r-word (“retard(ed)”) to degrade him. Is that fair to him? Rad doesn’t deserve to be disrespected. Although the r-word may be empty to you, it packs a whole lot of hurt and pain to me and many other people who have been blessed with special people in their lives.

My brother has shown more love to people and given more high-fives in his 27 years than most do in their entire lives. He’s also the kind of guy who would go out of his way for a stranger and give him a hug, just to make sure they were ok.

When I hear the r-word, I think of my brother and what he means to me. Rad stands for love, courage, impact, inspiration, and respect. He redefines the r-word.

I invite you to join Spread the Word to End the Word and pledge today at!

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About Amanda Haarberg

By sharing my and my bothers stories I want to change the publics prespective of people with disabilities. Be kind to all.

18 responses to “My Brother Rad: Redefining the R-word”

  1. Donna Demling says :

    Rad was a gift God gave to you and your family. You are very special people and I think Rad should get a high five from me. High Five Rad!

  2. Sharma Howard says :

    Thank you for expressing what the r-word means to those who love and respect those with “disabilities.” Ending the careless use of this hurtful word is a worthy cause; one you have taken up very eloquently and with great spirit and insight. Our loved ones do not deserve to have scorn heaped upon them by the slur that is this outdated and cruel word portends. It the r-word, as it exists now, has no relation to them – none, whatsoever.

  3. Michele Moser Higgins says :

    People can be so rude. I work for an agency that provides services to adults with disabilities. One of my co-workers was in the grocery store recently with a group of our clients. Two women behind them in line were using the “R” word about our folks, loud enough for all of them to hear. I find it so hard to believe that these rude people haven’t been touched by someone special or at least not know someone with a special person in their daily lives. It’s very sad.

  4. Katy Patterson says :

    I think the only people that word applies to are the people that use it.

  5. Michelle Kelly says :

    I’d like to extend a big thank you to her parents. They raised her completely right. With compassion. ❤

  6. Susan Graham says :

    Good for you! You two are lucky to have eachother! and by the way… GO BIG RED!!!!

  7. Georgia Smith Hilliard says :

    This made me cry. I, too, love my special brother as you do. God bless you both.

  8. Cowgirl Up (@DS_CowgirlUp) says :

    Wonderful post, Amanda!!! I was born in Nebraska and LOVE everything you right about your brother!!! We have a 2-year-old son, Joey who has has an extra chromosome– we can’t stand the R word either!!!! Keep up the awesome work and GBR!

  9. Catharine Michael Pemevents says :

    This was a real eye opener. I honestly didn’t know that people still used that word in that way. I wouldn’t worry though…most of the people who are insulting your brother are probably just trying to make themselves feel better about their own delays. One day they’ll admit to themselves, that they can also be amazing people no matter what the school system tells them is “normal” for their age!

  10. Phillip Pullion says :

    I never grew up with dealing with special needs people. It was until 8 years ago that I learned about special needs people, handicapped or downs syndrome either through work, coworkers family members or general public in California. At first I was awkward with until I learned they are humans just like you and me. Help spread the word to prevent the abuse.

  11. Tom-Nancy Edwards says :

    As a grandmother to a special needs 5 year old I often think that that extra chromosone is the ‘love chromosone’ It’s a gift! We all shoud be so loving!!

  12. Jenny Angus says :

    My wee brother and sister both have that extra special chromosome, they have changed our family in so many ways, made us realise how superficial some people can be, give Rad a huge hug from myself and my family and tell him never to change he is a gift and only those privileged enough to talk to share a hug with him really know the gifts he brings.

  13. Nikki Gillen Sanders says :

    Amanda, you and your brother are both filled with a special light and with courage to take on this issue, each in your own way. Stand strong together, and know that you have my prayers and admiration, along with the prayers and admiration of many others who will read your posts. God bless your journey.

  14. Samantha Gruidel says :

    Thanks for sharing! I saw something pop up on Facebook and I had to read it because I only know one Rad and he is pretty amazing 😉 Us at MMI love having Rad around and I love wen we get to take him out and do fun things in the community! One day he was wearing his yellow Nikes and we were at a restaurant and there was two women at the booth who complimented him on his shoes and so he decided to just sit with them and join them instead 🙂 His smile brightens up a room!!! Thanks for sharing him!!!

  15. Connie Mealman Lasswell Wechter says :


    I am the mother of a 24 year old young man who is dedicated, hard working, kind, gentle, and happens to have Autism and Epilepsy and 125 special olympic medals from numerous competitions over the years:) The “R” word is not accepted in our house or in our presence by our family or friends ever.

  16. Elizabeth Chamblin Cafaro says :

    Very well stated, Amanda! I’m the mother of a profounded mentally handicapped adult son, with a list of disabilities that would nearly fill a page. He’s nonverbal, but believe you me, he communicates his wants and desires perfectly! I’m also a teacher, and when I hear students using the r-word, I take them aside and explain why that’s so hurtful. Most are shocked at my reaction, and say that they really don’t even think about the real meaning behind it when they say it. To them, it’s just another expression. I’ve enlightened my share of middle schoolers and given them something to think about!

  17. Kadee120906 (@Kadee120906) says :

    Hi Amanda! I can truly tell you love and care immensely about your dear brother, Rad. I could not agree with you more about the usage of the r word, it’s highly offensive and I cannot stand it either. I actually followed your link here from a fb page that I visit often and you left your link there. I can tell you that the little cat grumpy was name tardar sauce. If you go to the owners real page you can see how she got her name, her owners young daughter named her, and now you see how the name was shortened up. It has absolutely nothing to do with what you think it does. I understand the sensitivity, truly, but in this case it’s not what you think. Have a good day. 🙂

  18. Adam Kallhoff says :

    Amanda, It’s nice to finally meet someone that feels the same way I do. My sister, was born with a rare mental disease. She has chromosome deletion 22q13. She is 8 years older than I am. She’s the only sister I have. She means the WORLD to me. When I was growing up, I could tell there was something different with her, but I didn’t exactly know what till I was 8 years old. I used to babysit her, bathe her, take her for walks around the neighborhood and change her feminine products when it was necessary. With my sister Andrea, every task took a little bit more of an effort. It didn’t matter though, because seeing her smile made it worth it. She opened up my eyes and my life to the World around me. She made me realize that the best things in life don’t come easy, they’re actually the hardest things you work for. She’s the most loving person I have ever met in my life. She’s always there to offer a hi-five, or a smile followed by a clapping of her hands. My goal in life is to let other people open their stubborn, closed eyes to the realization of something better. My sister has been my inspiration for everything that I do. The R word is something that needs to be addressed in this society. Why should people walk around and think its okay to say it. For all of us that were blessed to have someone in our lives that is “Special Needs”, we’re the lucky ones. They aren’t “Special”, we are. With their love and passion, we have become better people because of it. They see the joy in stuff that we don’t. In fact, we are truly blessed to have them in our lives. Andrea Renae Kallhoff, I love you more than anything in this World, and I know you feel the same way!

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