Person-First Language


Labels matter!

For the month of April, DSI will promoting the use of Person-First Language – please support our campaign by liking and sharing our awareness raising posters. The first poster will be uploaded later today. Why is Person-First Language Important? 

Using person first language shifts our focus from the disability to the person who has dignity, feelings and rights. This subtle but powerful language shift helps us view people with Down syndrome as individuals. 

Posters_2014-4 - CopyWhen describing an individual with Down syndrome, it is preferred that you say, he/she is a person with Down syndrome. A person with Down syndrome is not “a Down Syndrome”. Placing the person before the disability emphasises the person first and the disability second e.g. saying ‘John has Down syndrome’ is preferable to  saying ‘John is a Down syndrome’.

DSI-Person-FirstThe words or phrases people speak and write plus the order in which they are sequenced greatly affects the images that are formed about individuals with Down syndrome and the negative or positive impressions that result.

Words reflect attitudes, beliefs and values and they affect how people feel about themselves

Words can create barriers and reinforce stereotypes. Down Syndrome Ireland strongly believes in the importance of ensuring that correct language is used when talking or writing about individuals with Down syndrome.

A baby born with Down syndrome is not a “Down’s child” or a “Down syndrome baby.”
When describing an individual with Down syndrome, it is preferred that you say, he/she is a baby with Down syndrome. A person with Down syndrome is not a “Downs” / “a Down Syndrome”. Placing the person before the disability emphasises the person first and the disability second.

When referring to peers, the correct term is “typical” peers as opposed to “normal.”

It is also important to use correct terminology. A person does not “suffer” from Down syndrome, nor are they “afflicted”. It is not a disease. Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition which results in an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. It was discovered by Dr. John Langdon Down.

Person First language emphasises respect for the individual.

A child is much more than a label.

Help to educate family, friends and professionals about the preferred way to refer to a person with Down syndrome.

If you would like to help Down Syndrome Ireland in its efforts to promote Person First Language; please contact grainne@downsyndrome.ie