Providing Education, Support & Inspiration

for the Journey

A person with DS-ASD is a person first.  So, "she is a child with Down syndrome and autism", or "she has DS-ASD".  Outdated language would include "she's a Downs baby", or "she's autistic". So, she is not a "Downs student". She has Down syndrome or she has autism. She also has brown hair and is an artist.  Her DS-ASD is just one way to describe her.  And the truth is, you don't even need to mention her disability at all unless it pertains to the conversation!

Use language that preserves the person's dignity.  We do not use words that conjure up pity, such as "victim of, suffers from, afflicted by".  DS-ASD is not a "disease".  

Disability is a natural part of the human condition.  There is nothing "wrong" with someone with DS-ASD.  They are who they are!

See the child or adult with DS-ASD as a unique individual.  No two people are alike.  Everyone has his or her own personality, strengths and needs.  We do not use stereotypes, such as "they are all so loving" or "they are always such difficult children".  Focus on the person's unique and positive characteristics.  Would you want people to focus on your challenges?

Finally, we ask that you never, ever use the R-word. The phrase "mental retardation" is considered a medical term but it, along with any variations used in a derogatory way, are considered extremely dehumanizing and offensive -- as offensive as any racial, ethnic or lifestyle slur. This is not a matter of politial correctness gone overboard; it's about a better R-word...RESPECT. In fact, we challenge you to take the pledge to end the R-Word.
Look at the child or adult with DS-ASD in your life as an individual -- your child, your family member, your student, your client, or your FRIEND.  Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated for the unique person they are.  Everyone wants to be loved, appreciated and included!‚Äč

Language Guidelines for Families, Professionals and the Media


The following guidelines are presented to help you use the preferred verbiage when discussing DS-ASD:

In the United States, the term Down syndrome does not have an apostrophe ('s) after the word "Down".  The D is capitalized, and the s in syndrome is lower case.  A shortened version is DS.  

Autism Spectrum Disorder is also called autism (lower case a), or ASD.

When a child or adult has both DS and ASD, we say they have a "co-occurring" diagnosis, or "co-occurring Down syndrome and autism".  While some people use the term "dual diagnosis", we prefer to use "co-occurring" because the term "dual diagnosis" can be confused with how the behavioral health industry uses the term (psychiatric diagnosis plus chemical dependency).  A shortened way to say it is DS-ASD.

Person First Language is preferred for all individuals with developmental/intellectual disabilities.  This simply puts the individual first and is a matter of respect, not political correctness.