Language Guide

Saut uses the preferred spelling, Down Syndrome, rather than Down’s syndrome. While Down syndrome is listed in many dictionaries with both popular spellings (with or without an apostrophe s), the preferred usage in the United States is Down syndrome. This is because an “apostrophe s” connotes ownership or possession. Down syndrome is named for the English physician John Langdon Down, who characterized the condition, but did not have it. The AP Stylebook recommends using “Down Syndrome,” as well.

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.”

Down syndrome is a condition or a syndrome, not a disease.

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

While it is unfortunately clinically acceptable to say “mental retardation,” you should use the more socially acceptable “intellectual disability”. Saut strongly condems the use of the word "retarded" in any derogatory context. Using this word is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent.

Avoid using “Mongol” or “Mongolian”. This term can be traced back to John Langdon Down – the doctor after whom Down syndrome is named. He used the term, Mongolian idiocy, to identify this population because he was influenced by contemporary scientific thought, which was dominated by Charles Darwin’s work on evolution at the time. He confused the epicanthic eye fold found in individuals with Down syndrome with the Oriental fold and suggested that it had an Oriental origin. He named these patients mongol, and although his ethnic theory never became popular, the name remained in general usage for over a hundred years.

References

The information featured in this section is reproduced via an exclusive arrangement with National Down Syndrome Society [ONLINE] Available at http://www.ndss.org