The “R” Word.

Today marks the 8th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day, a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since last year. Each year the voice of people with Down syndrome, and those who live and work with them, grows louder. But there is still so much more we can do.

First of all it is not “Down’s Syndrome”  Dr. Down did not have”Down’s Syndrome.” It is called “Down syndrome.” In most cases, Down syndrome occurs when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21 so they have 47 instead of the usual 46 chromosomes. This form of Down syndrome is called Trisomy 21. The extra chromosome changes the way the body and brain develop. However, even though they may look and behave different than you, people with Down syndrome,are just that: people with Down syndrome. In case you don’t know where I am going: it is not cool to call people by their “condition.” For instance, you would never say “I work with an arthritis guy,” would you?  Then why would you refer to a “Down syndrome kid?”  People with Down syndrome are humans first. Choosing one obvious feature or trait and sticking that trait in front of a word like person, guy, kid etc. is not only un-PC, it lessens the recognition that they are a human being created in the image of God.

As Christians we routinely condemn those around us who take the Lord’s Name in vain, yet many of us unwittingly mock some among us who bear God’s image just the same as you or I. Not sure what I mean? Do you use  the “R” word?  Do you even know what the “R” word is? If you do not, you may use it in everyday speech.  Do you say things “like that is retarded” or “you are such a retard?”   I have a nephew with Down syndrome, so perhaps my awareness is increased. But I admit that prior to the blessing of meeting my nephew, I routinely used derogatory words and phrases that perpetuated a false stereotype of people with Down Syndrome.


Individuals with Down syndrome are the same as you and me.  They are human. They are sinners. They need a saviour. They can have faith, or reject it.   They love and they hate. They learn. They grow. They have fun. They express the full range of emotions.  There will be differences when a person has an extra chromosome, but we are all image bearers of the almighty God, who in his infinite wisdom chose create each of us uniquely different from each other.  So today I will increase awareness by asking you stop saying the “R” word around me.   And now that you are aware, you have no reason to continue using the “R” word. 🙂

Also – Did you know that when expecting parents find out their baby has Trisomy-21, that over 90% of them will abort the pregnancy? This grieves God.


For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

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  1. cecile says:

    The ‘R’ word should be RESPECT for sure. Those with Down Syndrome can teach us all a thing or two about loving and respecting one another.

    • Thanks Cecile. It is amazing how we all live in our own little worlds. Even though I am “aware”of this issue, there still is much I am ignorant of. It is certainly good that our Lord is gracious and merciful.