The goal of the Down syndrome community is to ensure that correct language is used when talking, or writing about individuals with Down syndrome. Words can create barriers and words can be hurtful. Using proper and appropriate terminology can help all individuals lead more enriched and productive lives- simply put, it is also the “right” thing to do!

Here are some basic guidelines for using “People First Language”:

  1. Put People First, Not Their Disability
    A “person with a disability”, not a “disabled person”
    A “child with Down syndrome”, not a “Down syndrome child”
    Identify individuals with Down syndrome as an individual, friend, a student, a sister/brother- not as a “diagnosis”.
  2. Use Emotionally Neutral Expressions
    A person has “Down syndrome” but does not “suffer from”, “is a victim of”, “is diseased with”, or is “afflicted with”. A person with Down syndrome is not “a Downs”.
  3. Adopt Preferred Language
    The word, “retarded” (also referred to the R-word) is not an acceptable or appropriate word to use. NADS and the Down syndrome community are strongly committed to educating individuals to not using that word as part of our language. A “cognitive disability” or “intellectual disability” is the preferred language.
    Typically developing” or “typical” is preferred language, rather than “normal or regular”.
    The correct name of this diagnosis is Down syndrome. There is no apostrophe, and the “s” in syndrome is not capitalized.
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