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When We See Insults About Down Syndrome Online, What Should We Do?

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Social media has great aspects. It allows parents like myself to find each other and connect. We can ask each other questions, brainstorm ideas and share resources. I love being able to find other parents online because I often can’t meet in person with other parents of children with disabilities due to Jaycee’s care and busy schedules.

Jaycee is my sweet, 10-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. She is minimally verbal but has no trouble communicating in other methods. She has lived through several surgeries and multiple hospital admissions for a variety of health problems, some unrelated to her Down syndrome.

It is her I think of when I see the ugly side of social media. When I see an inappropriate joke about someone with Down syndrome posted, it disturbs me.

I am not naïve. I know there are people who don’t care about those with disabilities and have no remorse about joking about people like my daughter. But, I do try to shelter myself from it. I don’t seek out posts or stories to protest or rant about. I like to pretend my daughter is growing up in a world mostly supportive of her.

Recently, I came across some things on my Twitter feed that made me shake my head. I did not screenshot these tweets because I am not about publicly calling specific people out. So, I will describe what I saw. First, there’s a meme circulating of a person with Down syndrome working at a computer with the caption: Google: How to Uninstall Chromosomes.

The first time I saw the meme, I was confused. Who did this? Is this suppose to be funny? Truthfully, I didn’t see the humor in it. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like that there was an audience for this sort of thing. I wonder where the picture of the person with Down syndrome came from and if that individual is aware of how it is being used.

I have since learned many inappropriate memes exist regarding those with Down syndrome. If you Google “Down syndrome memes,” you will see several negative and far more offensive ones quickly.

Then, there was the tweet of a man who said, “I have drank so much that I have #Downsyndrome.”

His tweet showed up in my feed because a Down syndrome advocate I follow had mistakenly retweeted it due to the #Downsyndrome.

That tweet gave me pause. Should I respond and get into a Twitter war with someone who might possibly think Down syndrome is an acquired condition? I have never called anyone out on social media before, should I start now?

I thought about writing to him one of the following responses:

Your mother must be proud. 

Thanks for insulting people with #Downsyndrome while you are intoxicated. Smart! 

My daughter with #Downsyndrome thinks you shouldn’t drink and tweet!

I didn’t do it. I let it go. I read his tweet while I was sitting near my daughter in the hospital battling another respiratory infection. I had bigger concerns at the time than educating that guy, and emotionally I was already drained.

What is a person like myself do?

How do you respond to those who throw insults at a people who sometimes aren’t able to defend themselves?

I know there are some who believe it doesn’t matter. These jokes don’t really hurt anyone. But, I can tell you people exist in real life with little respect for those with disabilities. Ask anyone you know who has a disability. I am sure they can easily tell you a story of complete rudeness, unbelievable language and downright intolerance.

For that reason, it does matter. I don’t want these jokes made on social media to become the norm.

I wish I had good solutions to these problems, but I don’t. I will merely suggest the following: Read posts carefully before sharing or retweeting. Show kindness and respect to others. Behave in a way to make your momma proud.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a meme, image or sign you’ve seen shared online that struck a chord with you, for good or for bad. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 26, 2016
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