Finding what words to say to a new parent can be difficult in any situation. The potential for misspeaking is amplified when that person's child has unique circumstances, such as Down syndrome. While the perfect words are hard to find, there are some things that should be avoided. As this powerful PSA has revealed, there is one word you shouldn't say to a parent whose baby has Down syndrome, because there are so many other and better things you can say.
In the new PSA, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society shares experiences of children with Down syndrome and their parents in order to raise awareness of the realities they've faced. The video, titled “The ‘S’ Word,” is a part of a series of videos that makes up the CDSS' campaign called “Anything But Sorry,” which aims to educate people on how to react to the birth of a baby with Down syndrome.
As the PSA reveals, saying anything but "sorry" is a better alternative. The video explains that this is an all too common reaction when a baby is diagnosed with the condition. So, the people featured in the video offered up some much, much better responses you can say to new parents, like a simple "congratulations!" Because, as a press release accompanying the video explains, saying "sorry" is hurtful:
When a baby is born parents are usually showered with oohs, aahs and congratulations. The last thing most people would say to a new parent is "sorry." Yet this is exactly what many parents of a baby born with Down syndrome hear from friends, family and even their doctors. Already heartbroken, "sorry" offers even more heartbreak.
With the "Anything But Sorry" campaign, the CDSS aims to change the way people talk about Down syndrome and encourage others to understand that every child is worth celebrating, regardless of any condition.
Parents whose children have Down syndrome tend to be misunderstood by the public and their peers. In a HuffPost article published back in 2015, 48 parents shared what they wanted the world to know about their children and their lives. One such parent's comment embodied the message behind the "Anything But Sorry" campaign — there is nothing to be sorry for:
I wish people knew that we are just as happy as other parents. No need to pity us and our child with special needs. We are a typical family. We actually feel so lucky and honestly wouldn’t change a thing. He makes us all better and he’s just happily living his life.
Down syndrome is a very common condition, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with the condition. And each year, 6,000 people are diagnosed with Down syndrome, the agency notes. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, it is the most common chromosomal condition in the nation. So, the number of people with the condition is just one of many reasons why the public should be better informed on how to start a dialogue about Down syndrome.
Parenting any child comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. And fortunately, parents of children with Down syndrome have a wealth of resources available to them to assist them with their unique set of hurdles. But no matter how well-intended a "sorry" offered up to a new parent whose child has been diagnosed may be, it's not what should be said. Instead, as the PSA reminds, remember that every child’s birth should be celebrated and every baby is capable of doing amazing things.
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