What not to say to parents of a child with Down syndrome

This is Louise, a beautiful French baby who is her mum and dad’s pride and joy. As her mum puts it, she has two legs, two arms and one extra chromosome. In the four months since Louise’s birth, mum Caroline Boudet has fielded many hurtful comments because of that extra chromosome – and she’s tired of it.

In an emotional Facebook post titled “Words Matter”, Ms Boudet has pleaded with people to think before they speak when talking to the parents of a child with Down syndrome. In the publicly shared post, which has gone viral since it was written on June 8, she says each year there are 500 new “mothers of Louise” in France alone. While comments may be made innocently enough, she says parents “can have a day ruined” by insensitive questions or throwaway lines.

Translated, Ms Boudet’s post says:

“Here is my baby girl, Louise. She is four months old, has two legs, two arms, and one extra chromosome.

“Please, when you meet a Louise, do not ask her mother, ‘How come you did not find out during the pregnancy?’. Either it was, and the parents took the decision to ‘keep the baby’. Or it wasn’t, and it was surprising enough for them, to talk about it over and over now. Keep in your mind that mothers have a tendency to feel guilty about each and every thing, so a surprise extra chromosome … I will let you guess.

“Don’t tell her mother, ‘It’s your baby no matter what’. No. It’s my baby, period. Plus “nomatterwhat” is quite an ugly name, I’d rather call her Louise.

louisde

“Don’t tell her mother, ‘As she a Down’s baby, she will … etc’. No. She is a four-month-old baby who happens to have Down syndrome. It’s not what she IS, it’s what she HAS. You wouldn’t say ‘she’s a cancer baby’.

“Don’t say, ‘They’re like this, they’re like that’. ‘ They’ all have their features, their character, their own tastes, their life. ‘They’ are as different between them as you are from your neighbour.

“I know that if one does not experience it, one does not think about it but words do matter. They can comfort and they can hurt. So just give it a thought, especially if you ‘re a doctor or nurse of any kind. I usually do not make my status ‘public’ on Facebook, but this one will be. You can read it and share it as you want. Because each year there are (in France) 500 new ‘mothers of Louise’ that can have a day ruined by those kind of words. I know it’s not meant to hurt. But you just need to know.”

Wise words, indeed, from the mother of a very lucky little girl.

(via CBS news)

Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle is a journalist and mum to two girls who are obsessed with dinosaurs, fairies, pirates and princesses in equal measure. She lives in Melbourne's east with her husband, daughters and a giant, untameable labradoodle. Michelle loves all things vegetarian, wine (it's a fruit) and online shopping.

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