5 Compliments You Need to Stop Giving About Children with Down Syndrome


Then there are times…well… that well-meaning, very nice people say things that just drive me crazy. I know that they are just trying to be nice. But whether it’s because I hear these things all of the time, or because they just aren’t the reality of the world I live in, there are a few compliments that make me batty…

1. “Children with Down syndrome are a gift from God.” This one is not untrue, and it doesn’t really bother me…I just hear it all of the time. A lot of the time, they tell me this while my other children are standing with me. I want to lean down to my boys and say, “Did you hear that, just kids without Down syndrome. Suckers.”

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All kids are gifts from God. The other thing that gets me about this is that by saying this, I feel like children with Down syndrome are put on a pedestal. I shouldn’t be complaining about this, but that pedestal further separates her from her peers, and honestly, makes me feel like I can’t just say she’s being a bratty three year old from time to time. People act like I’m committing sacrilege when I talk about my daughter like any of my other kids when they were toddlers.

2. “She’s so happy and easy all of the time!” My daughter is pretty happy. You know what? She’s about as happy as ANY of my other non-chromosomally enhanced kids are. Stereotypes do exist for a reason, and generally, it is seen that people with Down syndrome are happier in nature. This does not mean that they are happy or are easy all of the time. Abby is 2, and does what other kids her age do: throws tantrums, gets into things, colors on EVERYTHING, breaks stuff and freaks out. She has her own personality and can get mad as hell at you if you give her cause. One of my friends said something about her own child with Down syndrome that made me laugh: “She has Down syndrome, not a freaking lobotomy!”

3. “She hardly looks like she has Down syndrome!” Uhm? Yeah she does. She has a mixture of mine and her father’s features, expressed with the presence of that extra chromosome. She has all of the “classic” features of Down syndrome: the almond shaped eyes, the low set ears, and the lack of bridge in her nose. Saying that she doesn’t look like she has Down syndrome actually stings a bit. It feels like you’re trying to say that she’s pretty in spite of her chromosomal makeup. I think she’s beautiful because of it.

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There is a difference in saying she doesn’t look like she has Down syndrome and that you don’t notice her Down syndrome. I love it when people just see Abby. They just see my beautiful daughter

4. “Just think! It will be like having a little kid living with you forever! Your child will never grow up!” First off, this one just isn’t true. Adults with Down syndrome aren’t children trapped in bigger bodies. They have life experiences, they learn, they fall in love, they do just about everything other adults do. It doesn’t mean that she won’t need significant, ongoing care throughout her life. And, though being a parent is super rad…I’m not the kind of mom that gets all bent out of shape to think of her kids actually growing up. I want Abby to grow up. I want her to be independent. And she will be.

5. “I could never do what you do! You’re my hero!” GROAN. This is one of the biggest loads of crap I hear. I mean, I know people think that’s what I want to hear. It’s not. First off, how do you know you couldn’t do this? Had I been told that I’d be a mother of four kids, 2 with special needs, I would have said, “Yeah, no. Not me,” and run screaming from the room. You don’t know what you can handle until you get there, and until handling it is your only choice. Telling me that I’m your hero puts me on an impossible pedestal, too, that I can’t and won’t live up to. I’m a regular mom in an irregular situation. But these are my children, and I love and fight for them just as much as any other mom does.

Like I said, people are great. I’d rather have people tell me these things than the litany of shitty stuff people have said about her Down syndrome. I understand that people don’t know what to say and are just trying to be nice. And I love them for that. The worst thing you can say to a mother of a child with Down syndrome, by far though, is nothing at all.

Related post: I Never Knew I Wanted a Child with Down Syndrome

About the writer

Lexi Sweatpants is a writer, wife and mother of four. Her middle son has autism, her daughter has Down syndrome. She has sleep deprivation and a deep passion for candy.  She writes about all of this and more at Lexistential.


Valerie Cronin 1 week ago

I can especially relate to #3. When my daughter was a toddler, my aunt asked me if I was going to have surgery done on her to make it look less like she has DS. I said no, she’s fine just the way she is. Megan just turned 28, and she is as unique and complex as my other 3. Her Down syndrome is such an integral part of who she is, I can’t imagine her without it.

Cathy Jones 2 months ago

Your little girl looks beautiful in this photo! Pretty girls will always attract attention, its human nature. You are right when you say people are just trying to be nice. Im sure they would feel bad if they knew how their comments affected you. But they are ignorant. Having a child with Downs Syndrome has not been their journey in life. I have a gorgeous grand daughter with Downs Syndrome and my daughter has been subjected to similar comments in her daily life. You will learn a lot about people, thats for sure. You will also meet some shining stars amongst them.I wish you and your family a very happy life together.

Tomgee 8 months ago

Well said. All children are special. Well done you

Natalie Schroeder 12 months ago

I am one of those awkward people who doesn’t really know what to say & don’t want to come across in an offensive way. However, what I’d really like to say is how beautiful I think your daughter is! Usually though, I just smile & do a small wave at the little miss or man.

G money 12 months ago

I don’t love it when strangers talk to my kids but thankfully it happens infrequently. I can’t imagine how annoying it must be to have people constantly starting conversations with you and talking to your kids just to prove they’re not uncomfortable or whatever. To me it’s so fake! I treat little kids with disabilities to same way I treat kids without disabilities- I ignore them all!! I remember riding an elevator once with a stranger, both of us had our young kids with us, her daughter had DS. Some other lady gets on the elevator and is fawning all over the other little girl to the point she starts crying and tells the mom what an amazing person she is. The other mom looked incredibly uncomfortable! I don’t blame her at all. I’m sure the ladies intentions were good, but hello! Boundaries!!

J. Holmes 12 months ago

Insincere americans, who would have thought?
The best thing to do with someone who is slightly different is to treat them as if they’re not! Within reason ofc.
Tbh, just thinking of the ‘have a nice day’ crowd makes me want to throw up.

Jimmy Gamiao 1 year ago

Born with Trisomy 21, my now 13 year old daughter does not have “Down’s Syndrome”, we don’t like the term, label, or founding Dr’s recognition because it’s inaccurate in describing her. Dr. Down also described people with Down Syndrome as a Mongolian type of Idiot. I don’t believe parents of these children are satisfied with this description. My daughter’s name is Kina’u (key-nah-oo). In Hawaiian, it means “imperfect, minor flaw”. Which practically describes each and every one of us so called “normal” people. In other words, she is exactly like the rest of us with her own “specific” challenges, rants, issues, bitchiness, orneriness, and absolutely loving moments. YES, she keeps everyone in her life on our toes. She keeps us in line and forces us to stay focused with not only her care, but to also stay focused with our own health and well-being. We prefer to say that she has “Up’s Syndrome”. Sorry Dr. Down, but there’s nothing “down” about our girl. When “normal” children have bad days, special issues, fall behind in class, get low grades, or simply don’t agree with others, we don’t assign them a syndrome, especially one that’s inaccurate. My Up’s Syndrome girl is doing fine and will be fine in her long life ahead. Her gift to us was being born. Happy on Maui

Corina 1 year ago

I am a single mom and have a son with Down’s Syndrome who is almost four. I would also add that as they get older, the “reality” of the challenges are coming more to life. I also agree with all of your comments. I do love him dearly and realize that what I’ve gone through as a mom to continue to help him be healthy and have a place in this world is only understood by those of us who are raising these children. I need to be patient with those who don’t have this experience. I also see how disconnected others who don’t have a child with an extra chromosome are. I am also a teacher and boy has this opened my eyes. Thanks for the post!

BJ 1 year ago

This is so helpful. My brother just got a positive result for trisomy 21 on his and sister-in-law’s sixth baby, a boy. They are great people and will walk this road well. I want to make sure we support them well.

blah 1 year ago

I understand you do not like the comments, but they really are well meaning. I say to my friends with more than 2 children all the time that I don’t know how they do it and I genuinely don’t! I mean it as a compliment – when someone calls you a hero – enjoy it girl! Life is full of enough problems without worrying about well meaning (if not slightly irritating) comments.

Clemmie W. Ellsbury 2 years ago

I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your sites
really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. Many thanks

Candice 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this with us. I am so happy to learn more about these children and how to not offend. I love all children and anytime I see one that is different, I’m always worried that I will offend them or their parents.
They are different, and I do not see this as bad, just fact. However, I am always worried that I will do something or say something to offend. Thanks for the insight on what not to say. I’d love to hear some things that would be good to say. That you would like to hear.

Michelle 2 years ago

This is another thing i don’t like to hear. calling anyone with Down sydrome disabled, last i checked they are completely able! My son is only 5 months old and im doing my best to not let it define who he is. Yea he has down sydrome, so what? Everyone is equal, and should be treated that way.

Michelle 2 years ago

I agree with this article completely! I had my son in February 2014 and when I share the news of him having Down syndrome im told that god specialy chose me for this and that everyone is praying for me or well he’s still cute though. I know people are trying to be “nice” but maybe they should word things a little better.

Kathyd 2 years ago

My son, who has a chromosomal bonus, is 29. My favorites over the years were “Don’t worry honey, he’ll outgrow it” — from a nice old lady; and from a pregnant young woman: “Is there something THE MATTER with your child?” “Well, he has Down syndrome.” “Well, I don’t have to worry about that because I eat organic food and don’t do drugs.”

Adrienne 2 years ago

I don’t have a kid with Downs, but I have 2 autistic boys and some of these are the same for my kids. I always get the “He doesn’t seem autistic, I know someone who’s autistic son is *insert shrug and grimace*”. That drives me nuts too. It’s funny how some comments can just be so rude to us living it. Good luck to you and yours, she is gorgeous!

micy lynch 2 years ago

this is fabulous :) neither of my nonstandard issues kids have down syndrome, but there are the stereotypes for everything. there are some of the exact things saids.you put it perfectly.

Jen 2 years ago

Omg.. People really say that shit?

Melody 2 years ago

Thank you! This is perfect for my daughter as well. She has cerebral palsy. There are well meaning comments I can’t stand as well. One that drives me crazy is: “How long is her life expectancy?” Uh, I would say the same as yours or mine, but I haven’t asked my crystal ball lately. Or “Oh, I know exactly what you’re going through! My second cousins ex husbands sister has a CP kid.” Kill me please.

    Melody 2 years ago

    Sorry. Apparently I needed to overuse “as well”.

Tracy Hyer 2 years ago

Thank you for this. I don’t have a child with down’s but I have one with aspergers, and another with multiple issues (all invisible at a glance) and have found that except for the one about specific features, these comments or variations are used across the board about special kids. Number 5 is the one I hate the most (well 4 too). I am no hero, I did what I had to because I was given these kids. Like you I would have run like hell if I had been asked in advance. As to 4, well my youngest will be very much a child in a grown body for life. Not what I chose, and the only comment possibly worse is when people ask or suggest that I am less a mom because I want him to live apart from me as an adult.

krystle 2 years ago

I think one more should be on this list. The “my uncles brother’s second cousin had down syndrome.” Then silence…. ok?!?! You’re waiting for something to relate with or even a good story, most likely won’t happen. This gets under my skin.

Theresa Franklin 2 years ago

I read this article with great interest. Please let me say I won’t presume to believe I know how you feel. I don’t have a child with down’s syndrome, although I have a child with special needs. I am a retired teacher and director of special education. To all parents of children with Down’s, I’d like to say: I have taught your child. I have counseled you on many things. I have educated other parents about your child while staying within the law of confidentiality. I’ve written their IEPs, and helped you plan for their future. Yes, I know people say stupid things. We are still learning how to treat all people with disabilities. Please remember that only 100 years ago–a short time in history–children with down’s syndrome were locked in the attic and not discussed in polite society. We have come so far. Please be patient with us as we learn what is appropriate and what is not. As a parent of a child with disabilities, the only one of these compliments that I would take issue with is the one that infers that my non-disabled children are not a gift from God. I would inform the speaker that ALL of my children were a gift from God and ALL have special gifts from God. Again, I asked–Please be patient with us. We’ve come so for and yet have so far to go.

    Lisa 2 years ago


Pam 2 years ago

My husband and I are raising our beautiful granddaughter Akyla who is 5 and starting Kindergarten in the fall (yay!). She is hilarious, loves to dance, is extremely active and loves to create and draw. And, oh…, did I mention that she has Down Syndrome? As many have said, Down Syndrome does not define the child – the child just happens to have Down Syndrome, like I happen to have a heart murmur. It is just part of her makeup.
I love it when people are surprised when she does something “normal” (whatever that is). I’m like – she is a person like everyone else and she is capable. When I have disciplined her in public, I have had people tell me that I should not do that because “she’s a Down’s” Ooooh – that makes me mad. So I should just let her run wild because she has an extra chromosome? We treat her like her brother and sisters and encourage others to do the same.
Great article – thanks!


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