When she was little, Summer Brack didn’t know her brother Colton was seen as being different than other kids.
Coly was her big brother, and her playmate. She remembers how they would pretend they were monsters.
As she got older, and could understand what Down syndrome meant, she felt more protective of Colton.
She wanted to shield him from second glances and comments that hurt him. They hurt her too. And one, that is used too commonly and casually, left her crying more times than she can remember: Retard.
So Summer, in Grade 9, stood before most of the 800 students of Garibaldi secondary on Tuesday and asked her schoolmates not to use it. In a presentation about “the R word,” she and her big sister Tori, who is a Garibaldi grad, showed some family photos and talked about their relationship with their brother. Colton is in Grade 10 at their school.
They talked a lot about their good-natured brother.
“He makes us realize the important things in life, and put things into perspective,” said Tori.
And they talked about “retard,” and how it started as an almost clinical term to describe what we today call an intellectual disability. Today it is used colloquially, as a negative description meaning essentially “stupid,” or commonly as an insult.
“We wanted them to be aware that the R word is hurtful, and why it is,” said Tori. “It hurts our whole family.”
Tori said it took guts for her little sister to stand up in front of the school and bare a piece of her soul.
“I was super nervous,” admits Summer, “but excited to do it at the same time.”
The R Word is a campaign that is promoted by Special Olympics and Best Buddies, and the presentation has been done by people around the world.
The Brack girls asked Garibaldi students to take a pledge to stop using the R word.
Summer said she has since had a lot of positive feedback.
“A lot of people came up to me and said ‘That was awesome,’” she said. “People said ‘I used that word a lot, until I heard your speech.’”
An eight-minute Youtube video of their presentation is titled “Spread the word to end the word: For Coly.”