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To the CNN Writer Who Referred to Down Syndrome as a 'Disease'


Dear CNN writer Meera Senthilingam,

I understand how it might have happened. You might be busy or have a lot of deadlines. But today, a story written by you and posted on CNN.com referred to Down syndrome as a disease. Your job is to report facts. Here’s a fact: Down syndrome is not a disease.

My daughter, Willow, is not sick. We’re not in search of a cure. We aren’t looking to ease any symptoms. She simply has an extra chromosome. It’s part of who she is, not something she’s fighting.

The story you wrote actually talked about something that holds great promise for my daughter. It referred to a study involving green tea and how a compound found in it could improve memory and speech in individuals with Down syndrome. The idea behind the study is not to “cure” Down syndrome, but to help individuals with an extra chromosome to reach their fullest potential.

I admit, it was an easy mistake to make to refer to Down syndrome as a disease. That’s because the article also referenced real diseases like Alzheimer’s. I assume you just assumed Down syndrome fell under that category.

It doesn’t.

People might fear disease, but people should not fear Down syndrome. I ask you, does this look scary?

Jennifer Hines’s daughter, Willow.

I suppose I should mention I once was a journalist like you. I understand mistakes happen. I just wish this mistake didn’t hurt so much. And while your story does go on to define what Down syndrome is, your typo, whatever you want to call it, caused me to lose a bit of hope. Hope that our world is changing. Hope that the road ahead for my daughter won’t be as scary as I think.

Please know I forgive you. I’m not perfect, either. But my daughter? She is. Trust me. I wouldn’t change a single thing about her. And if you knew her, I think you’d agree.

God bless,

Willow’s Mom

Editor’s note: This story has been edited since publication.

Follow this journey on The Mighty Willow.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

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