“The word ‘retard’ changed for me after he was born” — Spoken Word Poem by Parent of a Child with Down Syndrome

Spoken word poetry written and performed by Robb Scott, written for his son, who has Down Syndrome, and how the ‘Retard’ might affect him.

Breakin” Labels – by Robb Scott


It’s a word you woulda heard me use a lot,
to describe my thoughts on a rotten situation.
Like that attack on Iraq – that lacked any facts,
I sat back and said “now that’s a retarded altercation”.

I didn’t use the word as a way to demean or be seen as being hateful.
Only to let you know you ate your weight in stupid,
and you still got a plate full.

So it was ok. It was playful.

But I didn’t realize, tied to the other side of that word,
was a slur and people cried when they heard it.
I was oblivious to the insidious nature of the term…….

but I was about to learn it.

When my wife gave birth, there was no plan to rehearse
for the worst, no test for this lesson.
I was stressed and confused, I cried at the news,
This ain’t the son that I guessed I was getting!

He’s ailing and sick and thin as a stick,
he’s too frail to even come home.
They said he’d be slow, success would be low,
and oh! he’s got down syndrome.

And that’s when it all changed….

and I became estranged from that word you heard me use a lot,
my son was the one who rearranged the plot.
and taught me words aren’t after-thoughts,
they’re weapons — they’re used for good or not.

So I got to build him an armoured heart,
so this word won’t rip my son’s apart,
but I don’t know where or how to start,
and that right there is the hardest part.

Because I can’t protect him.

So I expect when he roams this world alone,
he’ll find this word under every stone,
he’ll flip it over and bring it home,
and go over it with a fine tooth comb.

And he’ll examine all the ways it’s said,
the nouns, the verbs, the adjectives.
But I hope at night when he goes in bed,
this word won’t stay inside his head.


I hope he dreams of this scene in France,
where he sees the word and they exchange a glance,
he extends his hands and takes the chance,
and asks the word, “would you like to dance?”

And they prance, and play all day and get dirty,
spread their wings and sing like a birdy,
Then he tells the word, “I know that it’s early”
“but I got to go now that I know you can’t hurt me.”

And then he goes, and shows the world what we see,
a heart so big you’d hardly believe me,
and though I know it won’t be that easy,
he’ll break these labels, so he’s able to breath freely.

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Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

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