Monday, September 8, 2008

Proper use of language for Down syndrome

I came across an article today that did a great job of describing the proper way to describe a person with Down syndrome. I've been wanting to post on this subject before now, but I wanted to make sure I knew the proper language myself. This article was posted due to the birth of Sarah Palin's son Trig. Since his birth, the media has not always done a good job of using the correct language when talking about people with Down syndrome.

Down vs. Down's. NDSS and NDSC use the preferred spelling, Down syndrome, rather than Down's syndrome. While Down syndrome is listed in many dictionaries with both popular spellings (with or without an apostrophe s), the preferred usage in the United States is Down syndrome. 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. The AP Stylebook recommends using “Down syndrome” as well.

People with Down syndrome should always be referred to as people first. Instead of “a Down syndrome child,” it should be “a child with Down syndrome.” Also avoid “Down's child” and describing the condition as “Down's,” as in, “He has Down's.”

Down syndrome is a condition or a syndrome, not a disease.

People “have” Down syndrome, they do not “suffer from” it and are not “afflicted by” it.

It is clinically acceptable to say “mental retardation,” but you may want to use the more socially acceptable “cognitive disability” or “cognitive impairment.”

I also came across some myths about people with Down syndrome that may be interesting to those who don't know much about DS. Here is the link if you are interested:


kaRa said...

I have 2 cousins with down syndrome and this link was very helpful for me to understand more about it! Thanks!

Laurie said...

I need to send this into my local newspaper. On Sunday they ran an article that said, "Over 90% of Down babies are terminated." Down babies? Huh? Seriously??? People first language is really not that new...

Also- you have been tagged on my blog!!