Words that hurt: Asking family and friends to use kinder words

June 2, 2014 in Comments, Friends and Family

Many expectant parents become very sensitive to words they hear, including slang such as the use of the R-word. Many parents are hurt and unsure of how to handle this. If they confront their loved ones, things can get very awkward. If they say nothing, they may feel disappointed in themselves for not sticking up for their child. This is new social territory for you, and it can be very confusing. DownSyndromePregnancy.org has a sample e-mail for you to copy and edit to suit your own circumstances. For our parents who have dealt with this situation, will you share your experiences?

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4 Responses

  1. Someone passed on their Facebook status that 85% of children with disabilities are bullied.

    Even if only 15% of people use kinder words and have kinder actions too, we will have a better society for everyone.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I find it’s better to tell people ahead of time using email so that you don’t have to correct someone after they say something they probably didn’t even realize was offensive. When sent to everyone, it comes across as awareness rather than chastisement.

  3. Yvonne says:

    In our family, we have 3 sons who are late-elementary and middle-school aged. Larkin, our little one with Ds, was about 18 months old at the time. I was in the kitchen while the boys were in the dining room, and I heard one of them use the word “retarded” to describe something he thought was worthy of derision. I came into the dining room and simply said to them that I heard one of them use this word, and then I explained to them what it means. I said that I knew it was a popular word, but one that was very ugly and hurtful. I explained that it referred to people like their baby brother, whom they love, in mean terms. I explained how it hurts people who love someone who has Ds and hurts people who have Ds. I asked them to think about how it would make Larkin feel if he were old enough to understand. I didn’t say this angrily, but rather with gentleness, patience, and compassion. I know they love their baby brother and would not intentionally hurt him. I think most people using the R-word casually don’t understand the implications; they aren’t really thinking about what they are saying. I have yet to encounter anyone who reacted negatively to my explaining how I feel about the word and any request not to use it.

  4. Megan says:

    One helpful suggestion: My husband and I have requested that a note be placed in ALL of Ellie’s medical charts stating that we prefer for her to be called a “Baby with DS” or “Baby with Trisomy 21″ and not a “Down’s Baby.” Not nearly as bad as the r-word. However, relating this story to family and friends has helped us share the importance of language and educate them about kind words and people first. I always add that I teach Special Education and am uniquely sensitive, given a daughter with DS and students with a range of disability diagnoses.

    On a different note, I’ve been following and posting here for awhile. This site launched shortly after our prenatal diagnosis, and I just want to say THANK YOU to all, and to share that our daughter is the light of my life.

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