Monday, November 22, 2010

Them, They and Stereotypes...

There was a post on a Ds forum recently that got me thinking. The original person used they word 'them' in regards to people with Ds. The wording was something along the lines of...'Are people with Ds handicapped? I don't see them that way at all'. The second person took offense to the word, as she saw it as excluding the group of people we were trying to include. I saw it simply as referring to a group of people.

I am conscious of my word choices now, where I might not have been in the past. The R word makes me cringe every time, and I wish everyone used people first language. There are times where I don't appreciate the usage of 'them or they'. For example, they are always happy, or we don't hire them, or it takes special parents to raise them. I don't appreciate it when doctors say they a way of explaining away any health concern. My issue with these examples is that they are discriminatory or stereotypical.

But, the fact of the matter is, that our kids are part of a group that most people aren't. We do things for them because they have Ds. We check their thyroids, we have appointments with PTs, OTs and STs. So, I'm curious, is the usage of they and them offensive only when it's stereotypical or discriminatory, or does it rub you the wrong way when people with Ds are lumped together for any reason?


  1. The only time it really gets to me is when it is used by my mother. She works with some men with DS as a carer in their home.
    Whenever I have anything to say about Samara, she says something along the lines of 'yes, they are like that', or 'they do tend to do that' etc. Drives me insane. I am talking to her about her GRANDDAUGHTER, not one of her clients! And she still can't see past her just being one of 'them'!

  2. I ride the fence on somethings... never the "R" word though... won't ever let that slide.But you know,what really gets me is that you were on a DS forum and correct me if I am missing something but are we not all in this together?When we start in on EACH OTHER,well,then I seem to think we have a problem.Sad actually.Just my opinion.

    Now ... am I actually going to see you and that cutie of yours this weekend?I am nearly beside myself at the prospect!!!

  3. Sometimes I understand the use of the pronoun, other times it really bothers me. For example, the first time my mom met our PT she kept asking questions about how the PT did this with "them". I knew she was just over all assuming that all kids with DS received the same exact therapy "treatment" and that really bugged me. Something about the way she was asking...don't know. You're right though, sometimes it does make sense to refer to them as a group, other times it is stereotyping. I am working on not being so sensitive to innocent pronouns because you're right -it's not the r word. For that I am thankful.

  4. Oh, wow, good question. I think it truly depends on context. I don't think the context of the post on the forum you spoke of warranted a debate. I think that worked just fine there, referring to people with Ds as a group of people, not characterizing them in a particular way. I'm with Zoey's Mom, in that it IS sad when we start in on each other.

  5. To me it all depends on how something is said. If someone unknowingly refers to people with Ds as "them" or "they" and they just dont know any better it doesnt bother me...Just because I have a son with Ds doesnt mean all of the sudden everyone around me should know the correct way to speak and not hurt my feelings...I too had to learn how to speak and use people first language.
    But if someone who I KNOW doesnt know anything about Ds and they rattle on as if they DO and just assume everyone with Ds is exactly the same with the same issues and the same personality, yeah, that bugs me.
    Like Becca said, its all in the context of how something is said I think.
    Good post!!

  6. Thank you for this post, Melissa! It really gives me a chance to see what other people think about this topic. I really did not mean anything when I said "them". So, it really surprised me when that mommy said that to me. I would definately not say anything offensive towards people with Down syndrome, because as you know, I love Laura with my whole heart and I did not mean to offend anyone! I'm glad to get some positive feedback though...thank you <3

  7. I still stop up short sometimes when I reread what I've written. Sometimes 'they' and 'them' are just a group of people, one of whom has my heart! It does tick me off when Jack's doctor does it...I din't bring a group of 'them' to get 'their' medical needs met...I brought my son. Jack. This ONE! I try to preface my questions with "Do many children with Ds blah-blah-blah..." instead of the all inclusive way.


Thanks for stopping by! I love to hear what is on your mind.