The new Gerber Baby has Down Syndrome. (He’s cute as a button, by the way. Really a great choice, in my opinion!)
But now that people are talking about little Lucas all across the United States, there are thousands of well-meaning fans being educated on a very important point:
Lucas is a “child who happens to have Down Syndrome.” He’s NOT a “Down Syndrome Child.”
This is called “people first language,” because it puts the noun FIRST in the sentence–which makes such a huge difference in the Universe that some special needs activists will spend literally hours
annoying educating others about it. (Oops, I suppose “special needs activists” isn’t People First Language. What I should have said was “PEOPLE who happen to have a lot of time on their hands.”)
People First Language IS CRUCIAL–because many parents and special education professionals believe it’s crucial, and they’re right about everything.
If speaking nouns before adjectives is important to a parent then you better put that noun first, dang it!
In fact, if you really, really want to show respect for a child with a certain characteristic, you won’t refer to him/her as a “child,” either.
Are people defined by their ages?! NO!
In that case, the correct way to refer to Baby Lucas is: A person of a young age who also has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.
But, wait, maybe that’s still not specific enough? What if Baby Lucas doesn’t identify as “human” when he’s older? What if he wants to be a pigeon or a walrus?
Maybe a safer and more respectful way to talk about Baby Lucas is as, “A Living Being who resembles a human person–but may not be–and happens to have a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.” ?
Yeah. That sounds very warm and inclusive.
I’m so happy I’m an educated person… Er, I mean, a person who happens to have been educated…
Thanks, Language Police! 🙂