Caterina Scorsone Reminds Us Language Changes How People Think About Down Syndrome

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Ellen Stumbo, The Mighty’s Parenting Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.


On Wednesday, “Grey’s Anatomy” actress, Caterina Scorsone, posted three beautiful pictures on Instagram of her daughter, Pippa, who has Down syndrome, to remind everyone October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Her post specifically focused on how language changes how people think.

After providing statistics on the number of babies born with Down syndrome, she wrote, “Parents don’t have a 1 in 700 “RISK” of having a baby with Down syndrome. Parents have a 1 in 700 CHANCE of having a baby with Down syndrome, just like they have a 50 percent CHANCE of having a girl and a 50 percent CHANCE of having a boy.”

As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, her sentiment resonates with me.

Down syndrome is not a “risk” but rather a “chance” to experience a kind of love that few people get to experience in their lifetime. It is so deep and pure and strong that it changes how you see life.

What we say and how we speak impacts how people process information. I realized early on when my daughter was just a baby, that how I shared her diagnosis with others directly reflected how they responded. The words I used mattered, and the words other people used mattered, too. I did not like it when people said that “unfortunately” my baby was born with Down syndrome. I quickly corrected that to stress there was nothing unfortunate about my daughter’s life, and we saw her as perfect and being exactly who she was meant to be.

I also quickly recognized that people followed my lead. It is hard to feel “unfortunate” or “sad” when the person who is actually experiencing this life is happy, excited, full of love and expressing their child is a gift.

Now that my daughter is 11 years old, Down syndrome is something in her we cherish. While Down syndrome does not define her, we do see how the extra chromosome impacts who she is, and we really really love who she is. She loves freely. She sings freely. She dances freely. She is a kind and caring friend. She loves making people laugh. She is fierily devoted to her family and those she loves. We had a 1 in 700 chance of having a child with Down syndrome, and we feel so fortunate that we got that chance — the opportunity to do life with one of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever known.

She was never a “risk” but rather she offered us a chance to grow, to understand that all life is precious, that every person is valuable, not for what they can or cannot do, but simply because they are. This life we live impacted by an extra 21st chromosome is rich and full. There is so much love.

So it is true, only 1 in 700 people have the incredible chance — the opportunity — to experience this kind of love and life.

It is not less. It is not sad. It is simply different.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Scorsone finished her post saying, “Differences are beautiful. Language changes how people think. Words are important.”

And I could not agree more.

Banner images via Caterina Scorsone Instagram page


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