We have a relative who persistently refers to Freddie, and anyone with Down’s Syndrome as ‘A Down’s’, as though she were talking about a different species, or a breed of dog. We’ve tried to tell her that this offends us, but she just will not take the hint. We cannot cut this person out of our lives, but she refuses to see what is wrong with her attitude, because it is so entrenched – it is the attitude she was brought up with. Her words and phrases betray the fact that she simply does not see people with Down’s Syndrome as being quite as ‘human’ as you and me.
THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. The language we use to describe people with Down’s Syndrome, or any disability, is one of the most important and powerful tools we can use in shaping how the world views them. We must discourage the use of words and phrases which make a differentiation between them and the rest of humanity. We must not define people by a condition they happen to have which is only one aspect of their lives.
My son is not ‘A Down’s’, he is not a ’47th Chromie’ — he is a little boy who loves puddles, picture books, baked beans and chips, his family, and the Gruffalo, and who also has Down’s Syndrome. He is part of the rich and diverse pattern of humankind that makes the world such an amazing place.
With thanks to the Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group for the photo at the beginning of this post.