Choose Wise Words

Educate students on the importance to not use hurtful words that pertain to invisible diagnosis or disability of others (retard, stupid, etc

Photo of Rylee Howerton
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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Teaching students about invisible disabilities and the importance of not using words like retarded, stupid, dumb, crazy, gay, because you can’t always see what’s going on inside a person by looking at their outside. I have autism, but you can’t see it. Some of my friends have mental illness, learning disabilities or are struggling with identifying sexual orientation. I wrote a book to help teach young children as well.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I utilize the book that I wrote so you get children can understand my message of choosing wise words, and I also utilize pledge cards when I speak with older audiences. I am diagnosed with autism and by my huge offense to hearing people use the word retarded, I have learned that there are many words we all use in every day language that people may be offended by without us meaning to. So I have made it my mission to educate as many woolens as I can on the importance of changing our speaking to use other words like wonky silly strange etc instead of using words that could hurt someone.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

When I was at a dance recital, there were some girls goofing off and calling each other retarded. My mom and sister asked them to not use that word, as it is offensive, and that with my autism I am hurt by it. The girls claimed that they didn’t mean it like that, but I feel there’s no other way to mean it. Later that night my mom explained that there are lots of words we use that could hurt people. My friend lily has mental illness and I learned that the word crazy could hurt her feelings. And my friend Devin has dyslexia and hearing people say dumb or stupid is hurtful to her. So I decided that people need to know this so they can stop using those words. Replace them with words that don’t hurt. That’s how I came up with “ choose wise words”

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

There’s a person that works with my mom who is an adult. He used to use the word retarded all the time when speaking and goofing around. When my mom explained to him about how I have autism and how it hurts her and me and others to hear that word, and she also told him about how I talk to people and teach them not to use that word, and set up a meeting so he could meet me and I could educate him, and now he no longer uses that word He has even taking it one step further and corrects others when he hears them use that word. When I wrote my book I decided to dedicate the book to him his name is Steve O. He has proven that even adults can be educated,And also educate others to make the Same change.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

I know that there are a lot of programs in our education system the talk about how we should include other people who were different than us in things just like everybody gets treated the same. My project is different because I am encouraging and educating people do not just make a difference in the schools and not just change the students but I’m encouraging the change to be taken place in adults as well and also the change being with our every day language it affects Circumstances and situations throughout our whole life and experiences

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Because I speak to so many children and students as well as clubs organizations and many adults, it’s hard to see if I actually make a difference in that way. It is my hope that because I ask people to sign a pledge card pledging to change the words that they use that if they in fact still find themselves using those words that something clicks in them and they remember me and my talk and they put forth a big effort to not use those words . I have noticed that you were in fewer people in society are using the word retarded and I’m hoping that change continues to get bigger.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I’m hoping to expand my educational program to include a copy of my book and all school library and that the teachers will use it to read to the children at a young age so that they learn the importance of the words that they speak and how it can affect the people around them even if they don’t see the hurt, that’s what I would really like to see. But my biggest hurdle right now is just fine somebody that will publish my book because I have so many people who would like to purchase a coffee and unfortunately it is not published it is a self printed book that is very costly to meet

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Writing/Editing

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media


Join the conversation:

Photo of Summer K

Hey! I think this is a pretty neat idea! :)
I remember telling a friend I had ADHD once and they joked about my "disease" with the whole lunch table. Although it may be a mental disorder, I definitely wish they'd responded more considerately, like you suggest.
All the best!

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