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Language Guidelines
The following guidelines are offered as suggestions recognizing that spoken and written words often convey more than their intended meaning. Choosing words carefully can meaningfully enhance the intended communication and help to avoid unintended connotations.

  • The correct name of this diagnosis is Down syndrome. There is no apostrophe (Down). The "s" in syndrome is NOT capitalized (syndrome).
  • An individual with Down syndrome is an individual first and foremost. The emphasis should be on the person, not the disability. Down syndrome is just one of the many words that can be used to describe a person. Do NOT say, "That child is a Downs" or "she's a Down's baby." A child with Down syndrome, an adult with Down syndrome, or a person with Down syndrome is a more appropriate way to discuss a person with this condition.
  • Words can create barriers. Try to 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.
  • Encourage people to use person-first language, i.e., "The person with Down syndrome" NOT "The Down syndrome person!" Identify individuals with Down syndrome as an individual, a friend, a student, or a family member.
    It is important to use the correct terminology. A person with Down syndrome is NOT "a Downs."
  • Each person has his/her own unique strengths, capabilities and talents. Try not to use the clichés that are so common when describing an individual with Down syndrome. To assume all people have the same characteristics or abilities is degrading. Also, it reinforces the stereotype that "all kids with Down syndrome are the same."
  • Most important, look at the person as an individual - your child, your family member, your student, your friend. Proudly acknowledge their individuality and their accomplishments. Remember, persons with Down syndrome are more alike us than different. They have feelings too. They want to be included.

From www.dsahrc.org
Adapted by RMDSA 7-11-06.


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