Things to Know: Down Syndrome and Preferred Language #downsyndrome #specialneeds

by Carrie with Children with 13 comments

The smallest of things in my little world of Down syndrome have been bothering me lately.  I’m not sure why I let it get to me because truly it’s just a matter of educating others in proper word usage when it comes to the special needs world.

So, today I thought it would be helpful to share some preferred language information from the folks at the National Down Syndrome Society.

  • People “have” Down syndrome, they do not “suffer from” it and are not “afflicted by” it.
  • Down syndrome is a condition or a syndrome, not a disease.
  • Down vs. Down’s – NDSS uses 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.
  • 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.”

That last one is a biggie for me.  I don’t feel it’s my place to correct others when they reference it incorrectly, because honestly before Molly was born – I didn’t really know the “proper” way either.  But wow, this one really drives me crazy.

No matter the disability – it’s so important for those around us to be referred to as people first.

I’m certainly no expert, but I’m a mom raising a child with Down syndrome

What questions do you have about Down syndrome?


  • Jenny F

    Thank you Carrie! I love that you are a Down syndrome advocate and have shared Molly with us! (Love, love, love this post!) My Aunt once told a rude little boy at the store, “I’m a person, and I have feelings too, I’m just extra special!”

    • Carrie with Children

      Thank you so much, Jenny! I really appreciate it. Your Aunt sounds like a pretty awesome woman to me 🙂

  • Cindy Arco

    Thanks for your insight, Carrie! I am sure I myself have misspoken before, so I appreciate the helpful advice to make sure I don’t make those mistakes again!

    • Carrie with Children

      Thanks for reading, Cindy! I’m so glad this post was helpful!

  • Mchelle

    As usual, helpful post! Thanks for the education! As a former teacher, this used to irk me too…people first 😉

    • Carrie with Children

      Thanks so much, Michelle! People first… always! 🙂

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this kind educational post. We each continue to learn to be inclusive, and it’s often taught best when others allow themselves to be a little vulnerable. Thank you for sharing this with us and today making the world a wee bit better for each of us.

    • Carrie with Children

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Michelle! I appreciate you taking the time to read my post!

  • Francine

    Nicely stated. Thank you

  • Melissa {adventuroo}

    I’m proud to say I’ve been saying it right but I think I used to write it as Down’s. I just adore these pictures of her! So happy!

    • Carrie with Children

      Hooray for saying it right! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post, Melissa. Means a lot to me! 🙂