When you think of the month of March, you may think of St. Patrick's day or maybe even spring break. March may just be any other month to you, but to me, it's so much more. When it's this time around, I think of Spread the Word to End the Word, which is a United States National campaign founded by Timothy Shriver and Soeren Palumbo. The campaign aims to encourage people to stop using the word "retard." People like me believe that the "R" word is an offense to individuals with special needs and should NEVER be used.

This campaign is very important to me because, throughout junior high and high school, I was a part of an international nonprofit organization called Best Buddies where I got to work with many students who are special in their own way. We had fun events inside and outside of school, such as karaoke night, girls/guys night, movie night, and game night. During my time in this group, I didn't just hang out with these students; I formed strong friendships with them that will last a lifetime. This organization has taught me so much about what it truly means to be compassionate, and because of that, I will never support the use of the "R" word.

The use of the "R" word not only offends and upsets my special friends, but it also offends me because I know how much it affects them. According to CNN, by focusing on the word itself, you reinforce the negative connotation and actually strengthen the taboo. The focus should be on the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. This breaks down the cultural taboo that creates word taboo in the first place. In addition, in 2010 the "R" word was eliminated from federal health, education and labor laws so, in my opinion, it should be eliminated from all forms of communication.

The "R" word is nothing but negative and it needs to be eliminated in every possible way. Help me spread awareness about the effects of the "R" word. Have the courage to speak up for what you believe in. I encourage YOU to help me Spread the Word to End the Word not only in the month of March but all the time. Make this month something special to you too.