Today’s lesson is about language and words. 

#1 People First Language

Would you bWORDS MATTERelieve I didn’t even know about how effective and awesome “People First Language” was until about two years ago  (now) five years ago ,when my uncle explained it to me? I know – – – seriously! 

So, the specific example at hand is this: a person is not a Downs. A mother doesn’t give birth to a Downs baby. No, instead consider that child may be born with Down syndrome. My son has Down syndrome. He is not a Downs. 

Do you see the difference?  It’s subtle.

Again, I admit, this was pointed out to me. Thankfully, because it really makes a world of difference. And, like a former smoker, I’ve become pretty vigilant about it. 

However, My mother does this all the time, and it’s unnerving.  She says, “This is my daughter,” to whomever, “She’s the one with the Downs son.” (You may wonder why I don’t explain and correct her, maybe I’ll tell you about that later.) Or even better/worse – “This is is my grandson, he has the downs.” WHAT?! Oy.  

Here is the official word on the subject:  

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.” 

And while we’re at it: 

People “have” Down syndrome, they do not “suffer from” it and are not “afflicted by” it. 

These suggestions are from the National Down Syndrome Society website

Now, occasionally you’ll see a headline “Downs Girl Something Something” or “Woman with Downs Baby Blah Blah Blah” and, well, I get there are only so many words available in a headline but… 

About a week ago here, the Omaha World Herald managed to make the space to get it right: “Boy with Down syndrome crowned homecoming king at Papio-LV South” 

By Jove, I think it’s catching on! 

#2 Any form of the word Retard is hate-language. So, Quit it. 

BB-UCI-128x72Language evolves.  Bullying is not new. The whole “words can never hurt me” is bullshit and everyone knows it. SO a word that once had a place as a medical term became a negative phrase to define a person and then became hateful slang. It’s happened in my lifetime, which isn’t that long, in the overall scheme of things I mean. 

So guess what? People of good character, stop using the R-word. 

I know for some of you it’s hard. And you may say to yourself “It’s not hateful.” But really, when you say “retarded, retard, F*tard,” whatever… What do you really mean? What are you thinking? Can you still really say it’s not hateful? A word that once was used to describe my son to me by professionals has turned into a hate word.  Don’t think I don’t wince when I hear you say it. So quit it. 

I mean you, Ann Coulter. I mean you Jon Stewart. I mean you, my friend or co-worker or kid down the street. And I’m not explaining this nearly as well as John Franklin Stephens did, you should check it out here. It’s a good habit to break.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Words have power people! Is there anything else about people first language you want to know? Isn’t it great to know that changing the way you speak is part of changing the world?  This has been a #TBT – posted originally in October of 2013. Feel free to leave a comment and if you’re interested in Grown Ups and Downs updates, not to often I promise, join the club here