Partners In Learning takes annual pledge to end use of ‘R-word’

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

SALISBURY — Actions can speak louder than words, and Partners In Learning is putting action into the word “inclusion.”

The global movement to Spread the Word to End the Word began over 10 years ago to address the exclusionary words “retard” or “retarded.”

“We need to be aware of how our words can impact and exclude people with intellectual developmental disabilities,” Partners In Learning Executive Director Norma Honeycutt said in a news release.

Since then, the movement has shifted from eliminating the R-word to promoting inclusion for all people with disabilities. More than 40% of the Partners In Learning student body includes children with special needs.

“We even have staff with learning disabilities and find the word very offensive,” Honeycutt said. “We’ve been spreading the word about inclusion for over 27 years. Inclusion benefits for children with and without special needs include friendship skills, peer models, problem-solving skills, positive self-image, and respect for others. This can trickle down to their families, teaching parents and families to be more accepting of differences. Children with special needs add to the diversity of the classroom. Diversity enriches everyone’s lives.”

Partners in Learning Clinical Director Cassie Karriker added, “Spread the Word to End the Word is an effort to raise awareness about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word.”

She encouraged people to pledge to stop using the R-word.

As Karriker pointed out, walking the walk is different from talking the talk.

“Inclusion is more than just adding people with special needs to an environment,” Karriker said. “It’s about ensuring that the environment is equitable for all people, including your words. Inclusion is not about being invited to the party. It’s about being asked to dance. We are asking that our county take the pledge to end the dehumanizing R-word and promote inclusion.”

In conjunction with Spread the Word for Inclusion, Partners In Learning is holding a pledge drive today.

“At Partners In Learning, we celebrate inclusion daily, but we are asking our community to join us in this movement and pledge to end actions that exclude others,” Karriker said.

Partners In Learning administration and staff want to challenge the community to pledge to promote inclusion and remove hurtful words. According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, it only takes 25% of the population to support or share an idea to create social change.

The global engagement campaign remains committed to empowering grassroots leaders to change their communities, schools, and workplaces, now through a call to their peers to take action for inclusion.

With this change, Spread the Word will give community leaders worldwide the tools to create socially inclusive places to learn, work, and live.

Partners In Learning was the first early education center in Rowan County to focus on inclusion for children with special needs.

“Founder Dr. Shirley Ritchie’s dream became a reality in 1996 and has only grown,” Honeycutt said. “She dreamed of a day when young children, regardless of their ability, could learn and play together in the same classroom. I have had the privilege of bringing her dream to fruition. Partners In Learning has provided a fully inclusive high-quality early education for thousands of children since that time.”

To take the online pledge, visit and be part of the movement for a more inclusive community and world.