Because I was a slacker yesterday and missed a post, I’m combining posts for October 4th & 5th in one.
I’d like to share a few tips on person first terminology and a guide to proper language when talking about an individual with Down syndrome (or any special need for that matter). I know that everyone is not perfect and people sometimes don’t even realize that what they say or how they say it may be offensive.
The correct name of this diagnosis is Down syndrome. There is no apostrophe (Down). The ‘s’ in syndrome is not capitalized. This is because an “apostrophe s” connotes ownership or possession. Down syndrome is named for the English physician John Langdon Down, who characterized the condition, but did not have it.
An individual with Down syndrome is an individual first and foremost. The emphasis should be on the person, not the disability. A person with Down syndrome has many other qualities and attributes that can be used to describe them.
Encourage people to use people-first language. “The person with Down syndrome”, not “the Down syndrome person.” A person with down syndrome is not ‘a Downs’.
Words can create barriers. Recognize that a child is ‘a child with Down syndrome,’ or that an adult is ‘an adult with Down syndrome.’ Children with Down syndrome grow into adults with Down syndrome; they do
not remain eternal children. Adults enjoy activities and companionship with other adults.
It is important to use the correct terminology. A person ‘has’ Down syndrome, rather than “suffers from”, “is a victim of,” “is diseased with” or “afflicted by.”
Each person has her/her own unique strengths, capabilities and talents. Try not to use the clichès that are so common when describing an individual with Down syndrome. To assume all people have the same characteristics or abilities is demeaning. Also, it reinforces the stereotype that “all people with Down syndrome are the same.”
The ONLY ‘R’ word that should be used is the word ‘Respect’. NDSS strongly condemns the use of the word “retarded” in any derogatory context. Using this word is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent.
Every person with Down syndrome possesses strengths and talents that make him/her a valuable asset to every family and community. Please help to educate your family, friends, educators, and physicians about the preferred way to refer to our loved ones with Down syndrome.
(editor’s note – these websites – www.ndss.org and www.theupsideofdowns.org were the main source for my list…with a few edits and additions!)