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10 Things to Never to Say to a Parent of a Child with Down Syndrome


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So, one day you’re just hanging out at home, enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. Your phone rings. It’s your best friend, she’s crying on the other end of the phone, and through her tears, you hear her say, “I just found out my baby has Down syndrome.” You’re shocked. You don’t know what to say. You thought she was calling to tell you “It’s a girl!”

You’re out at your favorite shopping mall. You’ve got a nonfat vanilla latte in one hand, and your Nordstrom bag in the other. As you walk toward the food court to grab something from Chick-Fil-A, you bump into your co-worker who has been out on maternity leave. You take a peek into her stroller to look at her new baby, and you can’t put your finger on it, but you can just tell something is “wrong.”

It’s Saturday. You take your six-year-old to one of those indoor playscapes for his classmate’s (Noah) birthday party that your son got an invite to. You bought a small Lego set for a present. You walk into the party, put the gift down, and as your son his taking off his shoes, a mom walks over to you with their son with special needs and says, “Hi, nice to meet you. This is our son, Noah.” You look at Noah and you’re in shock. You had no idea your son’s friend from school, Noah, had special needs.

I get it. you don’t know what to say. You’ve never met a child with Down syndrome before. Sure, you’ve seen a few episodes of Glee, and you’ve saw that story pop up on your Facebook timeline about that girl with Down syndrome becoming the prom queen, but you’ve never met a child with Down syndrome in real life before!

You have no idea what to say them or their parents.

There are a lot of things you could say, but in this blog post, I want to give you a few things, not to say.

What Not to Say to a Parent of a Child with Down Syndrome

1. So, which one of y’all gave him the extra Chromo?

I’m not kidding! Someone really said this to us!!! Noah was only a few weeks ago at the time. We went to the lab to have some blood drawn, and a lab tech actually asked us that question. I was like, I know we’re cool and all…and have a sense of humor…but you don’t know us like that! Actually, I didn’t say that. And I can’t believe she actually asked us that question, but she did.

If you’re thinking of saying that to a child with Down syndrome. Don’t.

2. Kids with Down syndrome are angels.

First, this is just really bad theology. Kids with Down syndrome don’t have chubby cheeks, wings, halos, and fly around Heaven all day. (actual angels don’t either, but that’s a different post for a different day.)

The truth is a child with Down syndrome is just like any other child. They don’t listen sometimes. They disobey sometimes. They need to be disciplined sometimes. To put it another way, they aren’t angels. 🙂

3. God only gives special kids to special parents.

I’ve written about this before, but the sad reality is that most parents that get a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, abort their child. So, if you want to be literal, the opposite would be true. It seems that most parents who get a child with special needs are bad parents (taking the life of your child in the womb, is not what a good parent does.)

We hope to see that sad reality change.

4. I’m so sorry.

This was one of the first things my wife’s OB/GYN said to my wife. Anytime another human being is born the proper response is “congratulations!” not “I’m sorry.” Don’t ever tell a new parent you’re sorry for the birth of their child.

5. Is he ok?

I understand what you’re asking, but you need to know that having Down syndrome means they have 3 copies of their 21st chromosome, it doesn’t mean he is sick.

6. Did you guys do prenatal testing?

This question implies that a parent of a child with Down syndrome missed something. That surely they would have chosen” not to have their child if they would have known beforehand that their child would be born with Down syndrome. Please never ask this question.

7. Are you going to have any more kids?

This question implies that if a parent of a child with Down syndrome had another child with Down syndrome, that child would have Down syndrome…and that would be a bad thing. The truth is, it’s up to God if a child is born with Down syndrome or not. A parent has nothing to do with it. Also, you’ll find that parents of children born with Down syndrome really love their kids. They aren’t a burden, and they would gladly “take another” if that’s the plan God has for them.

8. Are your other kids ok?

This question implies that the child with Down syndrome isn’t ok. Umm, don’t ever ask this.

9. Is he high functioning / Is it severe?

When people ask this question, they are implying that some kids with Down syndrome are smarter than others. The truth is, kids with Down syndrome are just like all other kids. They have different skills, different strengths, different weakness.

Every child is unique and should celebrated, not compared.

10. Is he ok?

I’m not sure. Did he scrape his knee? Is he eating glue? If not, he’s probably ok.

Bonus thing to never say to a parent with a child with Down syndrome (or just ever) – the word “retarded.” Don’t say that.

Grace. Lots of Grace.

I don’t want to be too hard on you. You don’t know what to say. You were just at the mall to grab something real quick, then head home. You didn’t know you were going to bump into your co-worker and her new baby. And you certainly didn’t know she has a child with Down syndrome. It’s all good. There’s lots of grace.

If you’re looking for some things to say, try these instead.

Are you a parent of a child with Down syndrome? If so, which of these have you heard before? What have you heard that I didn’t include on the list? Leave a comment and let me know!

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