They said to me, “Those who are sick with Down,” rather than saying, “People who happen to have Down syndrome.”
They said to me, “They die very early; they don’t live more than 14 or 15 years,” rather than observing that the average life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome has significantly improved, and these days you can meet people with Down syndrome who are in their 60s.
They said to me, “They can’t do anything alone,” rather than saying, “Your friends need a little bit of help to get what they want in life.”
They said to me, “I’ve seen you with that sick friend,” rather than saying, “I’ve seen how happy you are with your companion.”
They said to me, “You have a lot of ‘nerve’ and patience to spend all your time with them,” rather than saying, “How lucky you are to be surrounded by all that love.”
They said to me, “Those people all look the same,” rather than observing that people with Down syndrome have some similar physical characteristics, but still share a resemblance with their families and are unique in their own ways.
They said to me, “Those people are always laughing and happy,” not understanding that people with Down syndrome experience all emotions, just like everybody else.
They said to me, “Those people you are dealing with,” rather than saying, “your friends.”
They said to me, “Your friends are r*******; they are not normal,” rather than saying, “Your friends with disabilities” or simply “your friends.”
They said to me, “Oh, your friend must have an old mother because children with Down syndrome are born to older mothers,” rather than saying, “Any mother can have children with Down syndrome.”
They said to me, “They are a burden to society. They can’t be left alone, and they always depend on someone,” rather than saying “With a little help, people with Down syndrome can have independent lives and actively participate in society.”
They said, “I feel so bad for their family members who see them like that every day. It must be very hard for them,” rather than saying, “I feel so happy that their families do not see them differently and enjoy their existence.”
When I first used to hear these words, I was very surprised. I couldn’t understand how humans can feel this way about another human being. But now I’m immune because I know they do not understand that words can hurt and that love does exist; it really does. My friends with Down syndrome are living proof of that love.