Why it’s ok to say Downs
When Oliver was diagnosed I was introduced to a world I knew very little about. An unknown, terrifying world. Terminology was the last thing on my mind, but now that I am comfortable with the roads, and I know where all my favorite restaurants are, I am able to think a bit more about this wonderful, much less terrifying world.
Words, a vast complex system of letters which give us the ability to communicate. They can hurt us, heal us, and change us, but they are just words, so why are we caught up on the specifics of a word when there is so much more we can focus on?
I have witnessed parents of children with Down syndrome become highly offended by the phrasing of their child’s diagnosis. I have heard of scolding friends and family, deeming themselves professors of the syndrome and “educating” others on the proper way to say “my child has Down syndrome”, but why? Why has this become a focus of our children when these friends, family, doctors, etc. aren’t trying to be hurtful, or rude? They are genuinely interested in hearing about your child, so why spend the time scolding them on words when you can be telling them about your homie with an extra chromie?
I have heard so many different forms of Down syndrome when people speak about Oliver:
The Downs (This one came from a doctor and I had to stifle a laugh)
Down syndrome child
Child with Down syndrome
Do you know what came with all these variations? Love. Love, support, and caring for my son. They were not harmful words, but words of encouragement and curiosity. So many people are uncomfortable with the topic of special needs, so if someone wants to speak about it, why would we scold them for word choice?
There is a company called Brownies & Downies that is a bakery who hires people with Down syndrome, which is amazing! Yet there are people who are upset by the name of the company. Really? Our children are getting the opportunity to be independent, work, thrive in this world, and you are upset about word choice?
So I say next time someone “incorrectly” uses a phrase when speaking positively about your child, hold back on scolding them, embrace them instead, and spend that extra time bragging about how great your kid is. Life is too short to fret over words.