Let them be little

Let them be little


October 28

Over the past 24 hours or so I have been contemplating what my real thoughts are on the following:

"People First Language (PFL)...this ain't rocket science, people.

One of my biggest pet peeves since giving birth to my son is the inability some people have in referring to him a kid with Down syndrome. So what do these people call him?
1. Downs
2. Downs kid
3. Downs person
4. Downs baby
5. Down syndrome
Do you see the pattern here?
So what is wrong with saying, "Oh, is he Downs?" Or saying, "He is such a cute Downs kid." Or how about, "I know a Downs person and they are so loving." I could go on and on, but, you get the picture. The problem with these sentences is the fact that, not once, was my child, Joseph, ever mentioned. He was never personified in these sentences. This is NOT people first language.
For instance, if you had cancer, I would never call you "that sick cancer person" or "Cancer Cathy" or ask "Oh, are you cancer? That is just awful"... If I were to refer to your illness (or whatever) I would say, "Cathy has breast cancer" or something to that effect.
So when you are out and about doing whatever it is you do each day and you are talking about a kid with Down syndrome, a baby with Down syndrome or a child with Down syndrome and you feel the need to bring Down syndrome into the equation be sure to put it in it's proper place and that would be as the secondary numerator's holding place and NOT after the equal sign. Yes, my son is a person first and the equation should look like this

{person} + Down syndrome = PERSON
and not like this
Down syndrome + {Person} = Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is secondary in all things in my home, Person is Person first and always. We just got the added bonus of Down syndrome :0) "

I came across that yesterday, and see posts like this often on DS parent's blogs. I can't say that these are yet my feelings. Here is my perspective:

Too many people do not know about Down Syndrome, and the first things that comes to most minds are the distinct facial features, 'slower' mind, and maybe a funny way of speaking. Right? Maybe that isn't your first thought, but I think it was always my first thought. I knew, well, not really a thing. Just the other day, I caught myself saying , "I saw this cute downs girl working at wal mart". The only reason I CAUGHT myself is because i realize that some people do not like it when their kids are referred to that way. I guess the 'proper' thing to say is, "I saw this cute girl WITH Down Syndrome working at Wal Mart." If you say it the other way, I am not yet offended. Unless of course you mean it offensively. ha. ;)

Now that I have Annabelle, I do find people maybe stumbling over there words when talking to me, or trying to be careful about what and HOW to say things. I want you to know that I am not offended. If you call Annabelle a "Downs Baby", I have not been offended. If you say "Downs", rather than the correct term, Down Syndrome, I will not correct you. The reason, SO FAR, is that I know that these people are not trying to offend me, OR are they talking down to Annabelle. Does that make sense? I have not come across anyone YET, that while having a conversation about Annabelle do they speak as if she is just so super different. I have been blessed I guess to just be around people who are encouraging, supportive and truly just curious.

I will answer almost any question asked, and I do believe I know how to filter the offensive and non-offensive questions. If someone would offend me, I would not hold back, and would put them in their place. Not out of spite, or to be rude, but just with the heart and purpose to help them to understand how to approach people with special needs children. I would have wanted that, and would have appreciated a polite correction if I ever offended someone. And still would want that.

As far as this "R" word goes. This word is no longer in my vocabulary. I hear it often, very often. People say it when they mess up, or are annoyed with someone for being so ret***ed. It makes me more uncomfortable than I thought it would, because it was for sure a word I used a bit before Annabelle. But, I do know that people around me who are saying it, are not saying it TO Annabelle. Because, ooooh, if they were, ha, that would be another story. A couple of months ago, someone said it around me in a typical conversation. Maybe saying how ret***ed they were for making such a silly mistake. I don't remember. What I remember is them catching themselves and then apologizing and getting super awkward. I was not offended to begin with, but then felt uncomfortable for the way they were so apologetic. I understood the conversation, and in no way were they saying anything at all towards my daughter. But, I guess it is good that they noticed that the "R" word should not just be thrown around like it always is.

THIS is what offends me most: people making fun of Ret***ed people. Goodness sakes, don't do that in front of me! THAT makes me upset. I do not know what Annabelle will be like as she gets older, but I am SURE that it will be nothing to make fun of. Don't say things like, "Doii doiii duuh doiii, I'm a little slow". I am not sure why this kind of thing bothers me the most, when typical converstaion and the word "DOWNS" doesn't really.

Of course, I don't want my daughter labeled, but isn't that what she is? She has a diagnosis, so is therefore labeled. But, I don't want that label to LIMIT OR DEFINE her. These kiddos are MORE ALIKE than DIFFERENT. And I pray I will see more of this "Likeness to Typical" as she grows, learns and develops. :)

I hope that all made some kind of sense. Just things that have been on my mind.



  1. Great post Katie! I think it is helpful for people to be educated on what does/does not offend. Come visit me!

  2. I appreciate your grace for people who mean well and just don't know how to word things. I realize that I do say Downs Baby, etc...but I also say Preemie instead of 'baby born prematurely,' and I would tend to refer to someone as a 'cancer patient' rather than by their name simply because I didn't KNOW them...and ultimately because I just didn't know any better. I appreciate this article because I didn't realize the terms I use could be offensive and I want to change that. I also appreciate that you understand most people just don't know better...we're not trying to be rude. As far as the r word...i agree that should never be used and certainly not made fun of. No one deserves to be made fun of...especially not for something God gave them beyond their control.

    Anyway. You have a beautiful daughter, and she is so lucky to have a mother who will stand in her corner for all time. Thanks Katie!!