Monday, October 4, 2010

The language we use...

Thank you to Bill and Ria ( for sharing this language guide written by the United Parent Support for Down Syndrome: Go to Click on "Information" in the drop down menu and then "Brochures" and "How do I talk."

Good words to use:
Baby/Child/Person with Down Syndrome - the emphasis should always be on the person first, not the disability. When we take care to put children first, and let the disability remain in the background, we are teaching others where the emphasis needs to be.

Developmentally Delayed - This term is the common reference to describe delays in development, such as language, walking and all other areas of a child's learning process. Most families find it less offensive than the term mentally retarded.

Has Down Syndrome - Someone who has Down syndrome is not a victim of, diseased by, nor do they suffer from or are they afflicted with Down Syndrome. They simply have Down syndrome.

Mental Retardation - This is an accurate term to describe developmental functioning level, but is less acceptable to many parents than the term "developmentally delayed". Use it with caution.

Typically developing/ Non-disabled child - Both of these terms are acceptable and positive ways to refer to people who do not have Down syndrome or another disability.

Big No-No's:
A Down(s) - A person with Down syndrome is not the disability. There are many things that should, and do, define that person. It is dehumanizing and strips people of their dignity to be referred to as a disability. Instead of saying "He is a Down" or "She is a Downs", try "He or she has Down syndrome."

Down Syndrome Child/Baby - This goes back to referring to the person first, not the disability.

Normal kids - Please realize that we perceive our children as being pretty normal kids. Comparing them to normal children implies that a child with Down syndrome is something less than normal.

Retard/Retarded - The best reference is developmentally delayed (for children) and developmentally disabled (for adults).

Mongolism - As most of us know, this is an extremely outdated term that was once used to refer to people with Down syndrome. This word should never be used when referring to or about someone with Down syndrome.

"They" as in "they are so loving; they smile all the time; they are always happy." - Please don't generalize about people with Down syndrome. "They" are not all alike; nor are people with Down syndrome "eternal children."

"How mild/severe is it?" - A person either has Down syndrome or they do not. Down syndrome is not an illness. Having Down syndrome does not mean a person is sick.

"But you're so young!" - Although the chances of a woman having a child with Down syndrome increase significantly over the age of 35, there are far more children with Down syndrome born to younger mothers - they are having more babies.

Handicapped - Use "has a disability" instead.

Downs or Down's Syndrome - There is no "s" or "'s" in the name of this syndrome.

Suffers From/ Afflicted With Down Syndrome - Our children are not suffering or afflicted. We must instill a great sense of pride and self-esteem in all children, so should ensure that we do not make anyone feel that Down syndrome is something terrible or something to be ashamed about.

I imagine that there are different opinions about whether or not some of this terminology is acceptable. More than anything, we want our friends, family and community to be thoughtful about the language they use about our sweet Bean.


  1. Such a good list. So glad you posted it. And so glad to know of your blog!

  2. Great list. I wish I could wear a billboard.

  3. Great list! I cringe when I hear someone say "downs" or "downs kid"! I know most people just don't know better so we need to get this list out there!