By: Jamie Hepburn, Gigi’s Playhouse and Penfield Children’s Center

Children with Down syndrome enjoy learning and playing, spending time with friends, creating art and so much more! It’s important to encourage your child to be friends with children of all abilities.

Here are 5 do’s and don’ts for being a good advocate and friend to a child with Down syndrome, written by a parent:

  1. DO pay attention to language and use first person language. It is “Down syndrome” not “Downs Syndrome” or “Downs,” so when you are referring to an individual with Down syndrome (and it’s relevant to categorize that), you may say “an individual with Down syndrome” not “that Downs kid.” He doesn’t “suffer” from it and there’s no “cure,” it’s just a part of his genetic code.
  2. DON’T ever underestimate my child, but please feel free to celebrate his wins. He works extra hard for them!
  3. DON’T make assumptions. His extra chromosome is a gift, not a burden.
  4. DON’T overcompensate. My child IS precious and special. So is my OTHER child. Oh, and so is YOUR child. I believe ALL children are precious and miracles. So while every mother loves to see their child oogled over, please be aware of other children in earshot and their feelings.
  5. DON’T give my child special privileges or overdo compensations. Please have the same expectations for him as you would for another child. He still needs to say “sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”
  6. DO teach your kids about acceptance and inclusion. That’s the best gift you can give us and others like us.
  7. DO ask questions. It’s how we all learn.
  8. DO be an advocate. Please follow this same list of DO’s and DON’Ts even when you’re not around us.
  9. DO remember that my child is an individual first. While there may be certain characteristics, mannerisms, physical features or traits that he has in common with others with Down syndrome, he also has a lot in common with others.

Follow these do’s and don’ts and share with your family and friends! Children with Down syndrome deserve our love and respect, just like every other child. Together we can create a world of acceptance and inclusion for all children.

How do you practice inclusion with your child?