Cornwall mother's language campaign after 'painful' comments about son with Down's Syndrome

  • Watch Grace Pascoe's report

A campaign has been founded by the Cornish mother of a baby with Down's Syndrome to teach people about appropriate language after receiving "painful" comments in the past.

Becca, mum to one-year-old Arthur, has written an 'open letter' to friends and family about the use of language and the impact inappropriate wording can have.

She admits she did not know much about Down's Syndrome before giving birth and acknowledges that most people often want to say the right things but do not know how.

She hopes her 'Language Creates Reality' cards will help outline some of the problems with everyday language and highlight the difference a few words can make.

An extract of Becca's open letter:

"I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, that I know absolutely no-one meant any malice or hurt by any of the comments below, that they were all said with love, but some of these comments have been painful.

"I have learnt so much this year, and I want to share with open arms, and the invitation of open conversation if you wanted it, some of the things that, for us, could have been phrased better.

"I am writing this in the hope that after reading it my son and I will hear some of these things less often.

A child's clothing company has offered to run the campaign with Arthur modelling.

Arthur was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome when he was born and had open heart surgery at three months old.

The coronavirus lockdown gave her the chance to "reflect" on the first year of Arthur's life and she was inspired to change the way people talk about people with Down's Syndrome.

In her open letter, Becca said: "I also want to make clear that if people sometimes slip up and say something that isn’t the most positive choice of words, it’s ok, as long as they are trying."

She finished the letter with: "This is all said with love, I want to say that again, as I know all the above comments were made from a place of support and care.

"Unless someone has had lived experience of a situation how can anyone be expected to know exactly what to say and what not to say, which is why I wanted to share this with you, with love, with understanding, and with hope for the future, for language to positively evolve."

After writing the letter and being overwhelmed with positive feedback from all over the world, Becca launched the 'Language Creates Reality' campaign.

It features a series of cards that replace many of the phrases often heard in everyday life with words that are more appropriate.

It is being rolled out to hospitals and other healthcare settings, while a children's clothing company has also offered to run the campaign with Arthur featuring.

How can I get involved?

  • People-first language: Instead of defining someone by their disability, i.e. saying 'Down's Syndrome baby', use the phrase 'baby with Down's Syndrome'.

  • Down's Syndrome is not an illness - using the words 'suffers with' implies it is an illness or injury. It is a syndrome that approximately 1 in 1000 people are born with.

  • When referring to the majority, use the word 'typical' over the word 'normal' - using the latter can be offensive to someone with Down's Syndrome.

  • Don't use 'Down's', or other shortened versions, as an abbreviation.

You can read more about the campaign here.