Person First Language: Please Don’t Call My Son a “Downes Kid” –


Read my new post here: Person First Language: Please Don’t Call My Son a “Downes Kid”


This entry was posted in Adopting, By Notatypicalmom, Down syndrome, education, Inclusion, Parenting and tagged , , by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She has a M.S.W. and has been at various times a practicing social worker, documentary videographer, film festival director and retail clerk. She is the author of Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: Email:

10 thoughts on “Person First Language: Please Don’t Call My Son a “Downes Kid” –

  1. I read the rest of your post at the empowering parents site and I whole-heartedly agree with you. I’m a huge proponent of PFL. I encourage (and sometimes strong arm!) everyone around me to use. My son is my son first, Ds is second in my mind. I just called an old college “friend” out when she referred to Owen as special needs………not even a special needs kid! Really? That’s all you see when you look at him? I do find that you will realize who stands with you on your journey and who won’t when you ask them to change their language and their thinking. Not everyone cares……..but I’ll bet they would feel differently if it was their son/daughter/grandchild. Great post!

    • Thanks for taking the time to go to EP website! i am glad you like it. I can’t bear one more time correcting someone: “He isn’t my Downes son.”

  2. Here’s the question, though. In that hypothetical conversation, all the descriptives were negative. What if we were asking, “Do you know redheaded Barb with the volleyball-playing husband?” would that be as bad? Some communities, in fact, reclaimed slurs by using them proudly. “Queer” comes to mind. If you consider Ds to be a neutral, or even positive, characteristic in your son, wouldn’t that be a better strategy than reinforcing the notion that it is something intrinsically negative, like a disease or a bad behavior?

    • I just don’t like it as the first thing. I can live with it as the second thing:)

      As for Queer, etc that ownership came from gays. I’m just a mom. Maybe my kid will want to be identified another way.

      I like the conversation though.

  3. hello!

    I am a young disabled woman who would like to offer some “food for thought”. I think the issue here is that disability descriptors are often perceived by many as negative, so for instance in the case of Down Syndrome, people may hear “Downs kid” and reduce your son to that single trait; whereas “kid with downs” implies that is only one part of who he is.

    if we were to describe things that are seen as “positive” however, e.g. a person who creates art = artist, a person who reads a lot = bookworm, a person who loves sports = sports fanatic, then the “among other things” is always implied. No one assumes people are JUST artists or JUST bookworms.

    So I think the issue is the perception towards disability as a whole. Being a “Downs” kid isn’t inherantly negative but people’s perceptions and pre-conceived ideas of what people with Down Syndrome can’t do make it so.

    as for how to change this, your guess is as good as mine! but I’m sure your son challenges people’s assumptions constantly and that’s what’s important

    • First thank you for taking time to respond. I could not agree more!

      “Being a “Downs” kid isn’t inherantly negative but people’s perceptions and pre-conceived ideas of what people with Down Syndrome can’t do make it so.” You said it beautifully.

      Our son is a ‘Downes kid’ – we know that means he is awesome person who does happen to make art. In fact he is going to have his photography displayed at school this week. But most people think that means he is less than:(

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