DSG: Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan Join The Cause

People First Language

The DSG promotes dignity and respect for all people including individuals with Down syndrome.  The greatest way you can promote these values is to use People First Language.

Words can create barriers and reinforce stereotypes. Therefore, the DSG strongly believes in the importance of ensuring that correct language is used when talking or writing about individuals with Down syndrome.  A baby born with Down syndrome is not a "Down's child" or a "baby with Downs".  When describing an individual with Down syndrome, it is preferred that you say, he/she is a baby with Down syndrome.  A person with Down syndrome is not a "Downs".  Placing the person before the disability emphasizes the person first and the disability second.  When referring to peers, the correct term is "typical" peers as opposed to "normal." 

It is also important to use correct terminology.  A person does not "suffer" from Down syndrome, nor are they "afflicted".  It is not a disease.  Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition which results in an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.  It was discovered by Dr. John Langdon Down.  However, since Dr. Down did not have this syndrome himself, the possessive form is not used. In addition, the "s" in syndrome is not capitalized. 

Person First language emphasizes respect for the individual. A person (instead of child) is much more than a label.  Help to educate family, friends and physicians about the preferred way to refer to your child.

Examples of People First Language

Say: Instead of:
People with disabilities.
He has a cognitive disability (diagnosis).
She has autism (or an autism diagnosis).
He has a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
She has a learning disability (diagnosis).
She's of short stature/she's a little person.
He has a mental health diagnosis. He's emotionally disturbed/mentally ill.
She uses a wheelchair/mobility chair.
He receives special ed services.
She has a developmental delay. She's developmentally delayed.
Kids without disabilities.
Communicates with her eyes/device/etc.
Congenital disability
Brain injury
Accessible parking, hotel room, etc.
She needs... or she uses...