Tag Archives: Grahamism

A Rose By Any Other Name | My Thoughts On Disability Language

I was a Special Education teacher back in the day. Before kids. Before Adelaide’s first MRI. So I took class after class focused on disability law, people first language, and being politically correct at all times. I was once involved in a graded debate about the appropriate use of disabled vs. differently abled. 

I left college scared to death that I would use the wrong word and offend someone. Because I had been conditioned that only certain terms were acceptable. And certain terms were deplorable. 

Last Summer, we were at Silver Dollar City. Adelaide was in her wheelchair, enjoying life. The attendant asked if we had her special riding pass booklet, which shows the rides and attractions she can legally ride. It’s catered to her specific abilities. Graham answered, “We’ve got her book! She’s disabled!” 

“You should use other words for her. Maybe that’s offensive.” A stranger in line corrected Graham. I was about to step in when Graham looked this man in the eyes, and stated in true Graham-fashion, “I don’t know what ‘offendisive’ means, but you see da wheelchair, right? Cuz she’s in one!” 

I have no idea if this man had a disability, cared for someone with a disability, or just liked butting into random conversations while in line at a children’s play area, but I was taken back to my college days. This stranger never once smiled at Adelaide. Or greeted her. Or asked if she was enjoying herself. His only interaction with us was correcting a child. 

Our family uses many terms for all our kids. Disabled, disability, non-disabled, neurodisabled, nonverbal, wheelchair-user, normal, atypical, neuro-typical, verbal, special needs, and many others. I cater our words to the occasion. Forms, discussions with doctors, interactions with 90-year-old women at the grocery store. Because I prefer that people interact with us rather than giving off a vibe that we’re going to judge you for using the “wrong” word. 

“Is she retarded?” An elderly man with oxygen and a cane asked me, while we were visiting Bob in a transitional care unit. Bob was just a few weeks from going home on hospice. Everyone at the facility loved when Adelaide visited. She was always clapping and laughing. I didn’t say, “You aren’t supposed to use the r-word anymore.” I knew his heart and he genuinely wanted to know about Adelaide. “She has lots of brain issues and can’t speak or walk, but we aren’t sure what she’s thinking. She loves counting!” Then he stooped down to count with her. I later found out no one visited him. Seeing Adelaide brought him joy. 

Imagine if I had said, “We no longer use that word. If you were on the internet, you would know this. And some people don’t want you using Special Needs or disabled, either.” 

Talk about a conversation killer. With a lonely veteran of a foreign war, who just wanted to chat about Adelaide. 

I’m not saying you should use the word retarded. I’m saying that Dave and I focus more on engaging in conversations with people who want to know about Adelaide, and we use a variety of language to do it. 

When a small child comes up and asks, “What’s wrong with her?” I never say, “The word ‘wrong’ is a bit harsh.” I squat down next to Adelaide’s wheelchair and answer, “When she was growing in my belly, her brain formed a different way than yours did.” And I continue from there. 

If I knew what Adelaide wanted me to say, I would say it. But I don’t. Dave and I are her voices. We speak for her. She is nonverbal. I was once told in a forum that the term ‘nonverbal’ is offensive. It was news to me. I still use it for my own child. And I’m sure I use lots of other words that would make college professors cringe. But this is my world. A Special Needs Mom raising a kid with disabilities. And I’ll use the words I want to use to teach people about our family. 

I long for the day when people see Adelaide and greet her at Silver Dollar City, instead of making assumptions about which buzz words she would choose if she could talk, sign, or use a communication device. She does understand “Hello!” and will often return the greeting. So let’s start there. Maybe focusing on the person is far more important than focusing on people first language. But that’s just my two cents. 

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Grahamism | Bad Things

“Mama, I know da Bible says God will use all da bad fings in our lives to turn em to good. Like in Joseph’s life. How his brovvers meant harm, but it ended up good. And how Moses was gonna get killed when he was a baby, but he got picked up by Pharoah’s daughter and saved God’s people. But I don’t fink it counts so much when you are just doing stupid fings. Cuz Samson was always just doing stupid fings he wasn’t supposed to do, like loving women he wasn’t supposed to love, and breaking all da fings God said not to do. Even dough Samson used his last strengf to destroy wicked Philistines, he kinda spent his whole life backwards. He made lots of bad choices for himself. So I fink da working good fings from bad fings doesn’t count if you keep marrying bad ladies who you know are bad. Dat should be in da Bible or somefing. ‘Do not expect God to make good fings come from marrying bad ladies.’ Dis is just da fings I fink about when I’m not trying to figure out how to be a real life Mario or how Black Holes work or how I’m gonna make mine own turkey dinner when I can’t use da oven yet.” 

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Graham and the Hermit-Man

“Mama, I’m so worried I’m gonna gwow up to be a hermit-man and never have fwiends and never leave my house.” 

This started a 5 hour obsession with becoming a hermit. Tears, constant questions, and incessant reassurance that he would never become a hermit. 

“HOW DO YOU KNOW? You can’t know! You don’t know mine future!”

“Graham, if you try to become a hermit, Daddy and I will stop you. We will get you out of your house.”

“What if you ares dead? You aren’t gonna live fowever, Mama!”

“Bess will not allow you to become a hermit.”

“What if all mine family is dead? What if all mine fwiends are dead? What if I CAN ONWY BECOME A HERMIT?”

“Graham, that is not going to happen.”

“IT MIGHT! You don’t know mine future!”

And it went on for hours. And I gave him rational answers. I gave him Scripture. I asked for help from God to deal with the barrage of hermit-man-related questions. 

And as we were praying at bedtime for God to protect Graham from a life as a hermit, he looked at me and said, “It could happen. Dey are weal. People choose to be all alone and have no fwiends and become hermit-people. What den?” And I said, “Then it happens. And you figure out how to not be one. You pray, ask your family and friends for help, and you move through it.” 

And he was content with that answer. 

We can’t get those minutes back. The Hermit-Man tears can’t be uncried. 

And then it hit me in the face. 

I am Graham and the Hermit-Man. 

My ‘what ifs’ aren’t as far-fetched, but I’m a 6-year-old crying in God’s lap. “What if we get pregnant again and we lose that baby, too? It happens. It happens to lots of people!” And God says, “Then it happens. And we figure it out. You talk to me…I’m always here…and you ask your family and friends for help. And you move through it.” 


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Graham Reviews “The Secret Life Of Pets” (Contains Spoilers! It’s Mostly Spoilers.)

“I went to see Da Secwet Life of Pets wif Mema, Aunt Kita, DJ, Jasmine, and Annaliese. 


It’s about a dog named Duke who has a good home when he was a puppy, but den his guy dies. But he doesn’t know he’s dead. So a lady gets Duke, but she’s alweady got Max. Max wants to help Duke find da guy dems don’t know is dead. Dey gotta have a weason to leave da house cuz da lady is always working. I don’t know her job. I don’t fink it matters to da story. But Max and Duke eat sausages from a sausage factory and da bad bunny is doing bad fings, but turns good at da end. I don’t want to ruin da movie, but Duke goes back to Max’s house to live. Da owner isn’t old, but she isn’t a kid. She’s just a lady who works. I don’t fink we knows lots about her. It’s mostly about da pets and all da fings dey do. It was a long movie, but I liked it. Mostly cuz I got to eat at a restaurant when we was done.


If I was gonna get a pet, I would tell him his old owner was dead so he wouldn’t run away. But dat’s how movies go. You gotta have pwoblems to solve. Now I’m gonna sing for you da Mario 3 underground song. It goes like dis: ticka-ticka-ticka <proceeds to sing the entire song>. But Mario 1 goes more like uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh <proceeds to sing the entire song>. Let’s talk about how dey are diffwent and alike.”

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Grahamism | Rocky Road

“Mama, I fink da people who name ice cream weally missed out when dey called it Rocky Row Ice Cream. Da name doesn’t make any sense. Dey could change it to Rocky Road, cuz it looks like a weally bumpy road wif all dat stuff in it. Can I write dem a letter and tell dem to change it? I’m so glad I fought of dis!”

1) Who wants to tell Graham that it’s most likely called Rocky Road as an homage to the Stock Market Crash of ’29? But his logic is really sound…

2) Who is making this recipe from Completely Delicious and dropping it off on my porch? 

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Grahamism | Independence Day

“Graham, do you remember what we’re celebrating?”

“America guys signed da…….”

“Declaration of-”

“INDEPENDENCE!”


“Because they wanted-”

“Fweedom to fight wars, pay all da taxes, and eat chips!”


Close enough for now.

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Grahamism | Spaghetti

A family of five is traveling in a minivan. They’ve just been to a zoo, and are now traveling home via scenic routes. One daughter is fussing. The other has fallen asleep. A boy and his parents are enjoying the drive down the Strip.

Graham: (shouting toward the front of the van) “Daddy, what does dat sign say?”

Dave: (turning to address Graham) “It says Pasghettis. It’s a restaurant.”

G: (quietly) “You mean spaghetti?”

Lyndse: (whispers to Dave, while keeping her eyes on the slow-moving cars directly in front of them) “Did he just say spaghetti correctly?”

D: (laughing) “He corrected my pasghetti.”

L: (bewildered and chuckling) “No, he doesn’t say spaghetti. He just said pasghetti last week.”

D: “Well, now he says spaghetti.”

L: (speaking loudly toward the third row seating, while keeping careful watch of the SUV braking erratically) “Graham, what do you call noodles and sauce?”

G: (thinking it’s a trick question) “Pasta? Spaghetti?”

L: (to Dave, with one hand leaving the steering wheel for her heart) “He doesn’t say pasghetti anymore. I think I’m going to cry.”

D: (to Graham) “Yes, spaghetti. The restaurant is called Pasghettis as a joke.”

L: (tearing up; addressing Dave) “I can’t believe he says spaghetti now. It happened so fast.”

Scene ends with a 6 3/4 year old boy being more grownup than he was just one week before. End scene. 


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Grahamism | Fly

“Okay, fly, we are just gonna talk. I just wanna say hi and talk about our days. Let’s just have a nice con-vuh-sation, just da two of us. I know you are da King of da Flies. I wouldn’t call you a nice name and den kill you. Let’s not even say da word kill. How about I’m gonna slap dis swatter around to make fun noise for you. We’re such good friends, King of da Flies. I’ll just wait for you to come see me. We can talk about all our fave-wit things.”

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Grahamism | Dental Insurance

“Mama, if I got a cavity, I’m just gonna tell him I can’t get it filled cuz ‘We don’t got insurance wight now. Sorry!’ and den I’ll just walk out. Dey will buh-lieve me and I won’t need a shot.”

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Dave and I were laughing so hard. We do have insurance, but Graham overhead me saying there could be a clerical issue with mine and I would postpone my appointment until we heard from the insurance agent. We’ve been with this dentist for years, but Dave took a new job last December. Then, I think I said, “If I don’t have insurance, they are not cleaning my teeth tomorrow. I’ll just take Graham, reschedule mine, and leave.”

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This morning, Graham asked several people if our insurance was working. Asked to see insurance papers and cards. And asked if the insurance people needed to talk to him and make sure he was, in fact, Graham.

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On the way out, he asked me to call the insurance people. “Tell dem I was good, I don’t got any cavities, I gotted a Angry Birds sticker, and I’m getting a Mario toy.” I’ll get right on that. My favorite thing on this green Earth is phone conversations with insurance companies. Plus, I can tell them I’m cavity-free, too. My prize was a Stranger Than Fiction dvd…

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Grahamism | Daddy’s Birthday

“Mama, today is Daddy’s Birfday. He’s firty-five. We need to get him ice cream, make him dinner, clean da whole house, get dressed nice, and make it special. But not too special, cuz dat takes more dan one day and I didn’t fink of mine plan til today. We need to buy fancy pizza and fancy ice cream and maybe a pie and you can take a shower. He can watch me play wif mine new Luigi, cuz his fave-wit fing is spending time wif us and having fun. He’s da best dad. Not too old and not mine age. And he can read. And he’s always home wif us, cuz we’re his fave-wit people.”

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