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How to talk about Down Syndrome

The Power of Language

Language is very important in how we think about the world. It is important to respect the language that people with disability use to describe themselves.

The commonly accepted language to describe Down syndrome is:

a person with Down syndrome or a person who has Down syndrome.​

If you are referring to how a person with disability learns and communicates you may also say:

"a person with an intellectual disability."

You should not use negative language such as:

  • ‘suffer from’
  • ‘a victim of’ or
  • ‘afflicted by’ Down syndrome.

People with Down syndrome are not by definition ‘special’, ‘poor’ or ‘unfortunate’. 

Talking to people with Down syndrome

Use plain language and speak respectfully. Try to look directly at the person you are speaking to. Try to not make assumptions about how much the person can understand. 

A few key things to keep in mind when communicating with a person with Down syndrome:

  • Assume competence. Give people a chance to show how capable they are.
  • Always speak directly with the person with Down syndrome, not the person with them. Give them plenty of time to respond. Take their lead on what support they need to communicate.  Many of our members use Lámh sign language to complement their communication, others will benefit from being asked either / or questions rather than leading questions. 
  • Know that every person with Down syndrome is unique, with their own individual personality, strengths and support needs.  Find out what support they need.


Unit 1A Ballincollig Enterprise Park, 
Innishmore, Ballincollig, Co. Cork P31 E822​


Clash Rd, Curraheen, Cork, T12 XH4C

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