Down’s, Downs, DS?

I know I am bias, but I truly believe that I have one of the best jobs in education.

I am the proud teacher of the most amazing group of students, many of whom have Down Syndrome.  The school and the community that we visit often (under normal cirucumstances) have been so kind and welcoming to us over the past three years. However, what I have seen over the past three years is that there are a lot of errors that people make when referring or speaking about people with Down Syndrome.

Student with Down’s / Down’s Kid / Down’s Person

This is the most common error that I hear people make. They often refer to Down Syndrome as Down’s and until I took this job, I made this error as well.  To clarify, Down Syndrome was name named after John Langdon Down  because he was the doctor that first described the genetic condition not because he had Down Syndrome himself. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe s is incorrect.

Down Syndrome Kid / Down Syndrome Students / Down Syndrome child

Another common error is to speak about student’s with Down Syndrome by using their disability first.  This really diminishes who my students are and focuses only on one part of what makes them amazing. The goal should always be to use person first language.

They are so great / They are amazing / Wow, they are fantastic

This happens in my school and community often when we are out and about. Many people speak about my students to me when my students are standing right there. My advice is instead of speaking to the teacher, speak directly to the child. Instead of “they are so great”, use the phrase, “you are so great” and look directly at the child. Imagine how you would feel if everyone spoke about you when you were standing right there.

Suffering From Down Syndrome 

This is another common thing that I hear. I can assure you, my students are not suffering. They are vibrant, energetic, creative and brilliant members of our class. They teach me many things every day. They contribute a lot to our class, school and community. They do not suffer from Down Syndrome.

Downs / Child with Downs

Another common mistake when abbreviated Down Syndrome is to add the S onto the word Down. The correct way to abbreviate Down Syndrome is by using the term DS not Downs.

Your students are so happy / People with Down Syndrome are so happy

This is something that I often hear about my class. The reality is that all of my students have been upset or angry and they don’t spend every day, all day as happy people. I have some students who are incredibly shy and some who are incredibly outgoing. Every child in my class is unique and each have the same emotions as the rest of society.

If you are teaching a student with Down Syndrome, The Canadian Down Syndrome society has created a fantastic Educator Package for you to use in helping to support your student in class.

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The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a teacher of students with special needs in the Peel District School Board. This is my second year in the role and I am in the middle of a steep learning curve! I am loving every minute of this new experience with my amazing and awesome students.

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