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One Sibling's Act Leads to Change
Trent and Megan Briggs
Trent and Megan Briggs
One Sibling's Act Leads to Change

We encourage individuals to express their thoughts, choices and feelings about issues that are important to them. An excellent example of this was set by nine-year-old Trent Briggs. Trent's sister, Megan, has Down syndrome. Curious about his sister's diagnosis, Trent looked up the definition of Down syndrome in the Scholastic Children's Dictionary at school one day. He discovered that Scholastic's definition was "a person who is retarded." Trent knew the definition was offensive, so he decided to take action. Following is the letter he sent to Scholastic with the company's response:

Dear Scholastic,

In your Scholastic Children's Dictionary book on page 160, the word "retarded" is used to describe Down syndrome. I have a sister with Down syndrome and I find that word very offensive. I suggest that you use developmental disability or intellectual disability instead. A website you could visit is The word is considered hate speech by the special needs community. Please change your dictionary. Thank you.

Trent Briggs, age 9

Dear Trent,

Thank you for contacting us about the definition of the word "retarded" in the Scholastic Children's Dictionary. I have forwarded your comments on to the editor who wanted me to let you know that they are in the process of revising the Dictionary and will make sure that that definition is changed when the Dictionary is reprinted. We truly appreciate you sharing your perspective with us and giving us an opportunity to respond to your concerns. Have a great school year! And thanks for writing to us.

- The Scholastic Staff

Trent's letter spurred discussion regarding the “R-word” in the Westford, MA public school system, where Trent is a student. His school developed a "Stop the R Word" campaign to raise awareness of the hurtful nature of the word, especially as it pertains to individuals with disabilities. By stopping the "R-word," society can reach a major milestone in silencing hate speech.

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Comments (1,000 character limit)

Eileen S. Borenstein, United States, PA
1/11/2015 4:43:50 PM
Very loving and he is a superb advocate. I love that he takes action.

crystal mae jeppesen, United States, WA
10/22/2013 2:54:59 AM
That is so sweet Trent I love your story that is so true I have down syndrome too

Carol Yelle, United States, MA
3/21/2011 7:55:55 PM
Great job Trent! How proud you and your family must of felt Saturday morning watching you except your award!

Arlene R. Dague, United States, NY
2/9/2011 9:30:54 AM
It is wonderful and heart warming story. Congratulations to Trent.

Marilyn B. Houde, United States, NY
2/9/2011 8:46:49 AM
Trent Briggs deserves accolades for writing you to try to correct not only a factual error but a moral or ethical error. We do not refer to kids who are developmentally disabled or emotionally or mentally disturbed as "retarded".

Lisa Searl, United States, MA
3/2/2011 11:19:34 AM
Nicely done, Trent. You have made such a big and positive difference through your words and courage to use your voice and be heard on such an important issue.

john gillen, United States, NY
2/10/2011 12:10:30 PM
I am so proud of this family. God bless them, and all challenged people.

Lottie Gillen, United States, MA
2/10/2011 10:29:02 AM
This is a boy who has the spirit that we wish all our children had. He is a child who must have been raised in a caring,loving family! He seems to have the drive to hopefully change the way people think about mentally and physically challenged people.

Margaret H. Karkoski, United States, NY
2/16/2011 9:37:06 PM
Trent, How wonderful that your sister has such a great caring brother. At only 9 years old you will have a great future. That word should never be used. Down Syndrome children are special children. I would like to meet you and your sister someday. Love, Margaret

Jenna, Canada,
5/2/2013 10:24:07 PM
Trent I am special needs and have developmental delays. thankyou so much for doing that for your sister, myself and all those who are differently abled.

Jean Whittaker, United States, ME
3/21/2013 9:48:31 PM
What an awesome brother to have sensed this so young. His parents must be so proud.

Amanda Moore, United States, AR
3/21/2013 4:56:32 PM
Excellent story!

C. Lamb, United States, WI
3/21/2013 4:00:17 PM
Amazing story! Look at one 9 year old child did! Imagine what we could accomplish if we all wrote a letter. "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one" - John Lennon

Galinda Wright, United States, CA
3/21/2013 1:32:30 PM
Thank you Trent for all of us that have that special someone in our family. I have a intellectually disabled adult son who is going to be 28 soon. All through out his life I have seen the words change that they use to describe him . Intellectually disabled is the best one yet.

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