31 For 21: It’s not Down’s Syndrome

Inspired By Down Syndrome

Lauren is almost 9 and I still get the same comments that I got when she was born.

“Oh, she just has a little Downs, you can hardly tell!”

“These Downs kids are angels from God!”

“Downs people are never sad! They are always so happy and positive!”

Since we don’t live in the UK, the proper way to address ‘Downs’ is Down syndrome. Big D, no s or apostrophe s, small s in syndrome.

A little history lesson: John Langdon Down published an accurate description of a person with Down syndrome. Not the genes, just the physical features. He was recognized as the father of Down syndrome in 1866. His son, Reginald, had a son who was born with Down syndrome. His son lived to be 65 (born in 1905 – that is an amazing life span!)

Please – I urge you to read John Langdon Down’s history! Fun fact: he also discovered the features that would become Prader-Willi syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, microcephaly and plagiocephaly. He really did a lot for the Down syndrome community, before it was a Down syndrome community!

Here’s another much shorter history that mentions his grandson with Down syndrome.

And another one, but this one isn’t all about John Langdon Down.

(From NDSS)


  • 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.
  • “Typically developing” or “typical” is preferred over “normal.”
  • “Intellectual disability” or “cognitive disability” has replaced “mental retardation” as the appropriate term.
  • NDSS strongly condemns the use of the word “retarded” in any derogatory context. Using this word is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent.

Down vs. Down’s

  • NDSS uses the preferred spelling, Down syndrome, rather than Down’s syndrome.
  • Down syndrome is named for the English physician John Langdon Down, who characterized the condition, but did not have it. An “apostrophe s” connotes ownership or possession.
  • 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. The AP Stylebook recommends using “Down syndrome,” as well.


3 Replies to “31 For 21: It’s not Down’s Syndrome”

  1. Thank you for writing, sharing this great, straightforward information. One of my favorite far-away family members is a fun, middle-aged woman who has Down syndrome.~ (Going to read some of the histories now….) Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend.

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