Sunday, October 3, 2010

Down Syndrome Awareness Month and People-First Language

So I'm a few days behind the ball on this one....but October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. My plan is to do a few posts about Down Syndrome-related issues to raise awareness.  Anything you'd like to know about Down Syndrome?  Ask anything!

Here's something I'd like you to know because....well because it just bugs me when people do this. I know people aren't doing this with bad intentions, they're doing it because they've never thought about it before. 


What is that? Well simply it means that you put the child first and their disability second when speaking about a child with a disability.  So many times I've heard things like "Zoya is a Down Syndrome baby" or "My friend loves Down Syndrome babies," or "Down Syndrome people are so sweet" or "Down Syndrome kids {insert generalization here}" or "Downs Kids" (which is not even right because Down Syndrome has no "S" on the was named after a Dr. John Langdon Down, a doctor who discovered was not named after someone who had the Syndrome).  Anyways, I digress!  First, Zoya is not a down syndrome baby, that is NOT who she is. Down Syndrome is simply a part of who Zoya is. She is a child first...a child who happens to have Down Syndrome in her "All About Me" list. When people say Down Syndrome first, it makes me feel like that's all they see. So instead, just say, "children/child with Down Syndrome." I know it may sound nit-picky to some of you who don't have a child with a disability, but it's a matter of respect for Zoya and others with Down Syndrome. When people say Zoya first and Down Syndrome second, it makes me feel like they are seeing Zoya for Zoya and not seeing only Down Syndrome. I know professionals who work with children with special needs who don't use people-first language and they have admitted that they never thought to do that or were never taught that was the right way to refer to people with Down Syndrome. So it's more than an issue of being politically correct here (which I'm sometimes not)'s an issue of seeing the child for who they are first, and understanding that their disability is only a part of who they are.

Zoya is who she is and Down Syndrome is just a piece of her beautiful puzzle!


  1. I worked in a school for kids with special needs and it always bothered me when people (sometimes even the teachers) would explain what they did as 'working with special needs kids'. No, that's not what I did. I never worked with 'special needs kids'. I worked with children, beautiful, soulful, sweet, charming, inteligent and creative kids. These kids just happened to have special intellectual needs.

  2. Here, here!
    We loved watching Zoya walk, and my son who is 5, had to watch several time, clapping and saying way to go!

  3. THANK YOU, Sarah!! Perfectly explained, and so important to tell people again and again! Recently here, Dominique, a 18 year old beautiful young woman, who is also blessed with an extra chromosome, was asked by somone, what actually DS is. She explained it perfectly in a few sentences and when she was done she said with a big grin: "But you know: I am, who I am, this counts!!"
    Yes, she is definitely RIGHT!!!