Almost every article I’ve ever read about Down syndrome has the word suffer.
And it always goes like this: John Doe, who suffers from Down syndrome…or, it goes like this: Jane Doe has a young daughter who suffers from Down syndrome.
Non-journalists do it too, in that they think a child or adult with Down syndrome “suffers.”
I’ve written several articles for print publications about a teen girl with Down syndrome — not a girl who suffers from Down syndrome. I also wrote it out as: She has Down syndrome.
After all, who am I to decide whether or not someone with this genetic condition suffers?
I don’t live with them, nor do I see them often enough to know their lifestyle circumstances. So where would I get off, then, using the word suffers in my articles?
What’s amazing is that the parents of kids or adults with Down syndrome let journalists get away with this.
Don’t parents ask to read an article first, before the writer sends the final version off to the editor?
You’d think that any parent reviewing an article, in which info about their child with Down syndrome is included, would be quite irritated at that word suffers.
A good journalist will replace “suffers” with a kinder word upon request.
The irony is that sometimes, the parents will talk about what an angel her child is, how loving this child is, how everyone’s her friend, how she’s always smiling — after the writer says this child suffers from Down syndrome.
If you believe someone thinks your child is suffering, ask them, “When’s the last time you saw someone with Down syndrome who appears to be suffering?
“In fact, don’t they always appear to be the happiest people in the room?”
Then be silent and gloat in the pride of making the skeptic realize his or her blunder.
Or, you can say, “Have you ever seen a disgruntled child with Down syndrome?”
If your child has a severe degree of mental retardation, you can say, “Actually, my child is not aware he has something that we all call Down syndrome. He does not know he’s disabled. Isn’t that a refreshing way to go through life—having no understanding of what perfection should be or the difference between sick and healthy?”
Children with Down syndrome who are very high functioning know they are “different.” But even THEY seem to have a happy disposition as well.
“Look into my child’s face next time you see her, and tell me if you see any suffering,” you might say to the skeptic.
About half of people with the genetic disorder have heart defects, and these can be serious. Hearing impairment is another problem that can come with the condition.
Children and adults with Down syndrome have slow metabolisms, poor muscle tone and are prone to quick fatigue when physically active.
“My child can’t cover 100 meters in 15 seconds. Can you?”
The skeptic will invariable say, “Probably not.” You can then comment, “Do you suffer because of that?”
Tell the skeptic, “Ever see people with Down syndrome participate in Special Olympics? It doesn’t take much to put a thrilling smile on their faces.”
Parents say their kids with Down syndrome — children as well as adults — have a sunny, content disposition, enjoy affection and have brought tremendous joy to the family. Many have full-time jobs. Who’s suffering?
Ask the skeptic, “How often do you see children or adults with Down syndrome who appear to be in physical pain?”
When I hear the word suffer, I think of someone who lives in pain, experiences mental anguish, battles drug addition, is obese, has debilitating lupus, diabetes or some other medical sickness, lives with an alcoholic, etc. People suffer from paralysis, cancer, depression and schizophrenia.
Not Down syndrome. Tell people this who think your family member “suffers.”
Though nobody wants their newborn baby to be diagnosed with any genetic anomaly, at the same time, I doubt anyone with this condition would describe themselves as suffering from it.
This is why many people with the condition say they have Up syndrome.