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Palin's VP Nomination Highlights Media's Disability Language Gaffes

Tuesday, September 9, 2008 General News J E 4
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ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., Sept. 8 Cynthia Kidder, founderand CEO of Michigan-based Band of Angels, a national outreach organizationdedicated to helping individuals with Down Syndrome reach their fullpotential, and also the mother of a son with Down syndrome, isn't taking sidespublicly in this election, but she does see the introduction of Sarah Palin asan opportunity for the news media and others to learn the language ofdisability.

"Sarah Palin does not have a 'Down syndrome baby' as MSNBC reportersannounced on August 29, or a 'Down syndrome child' as Peggy Noonan wrote inher Wall Street Journal column on September 6. Ms. Palin and her husband havea child named Trig with Down syndrome," explains Ms. Kidder. "Despite UsWeekly's current cover photo description of Palin's son as 'afflicted with'Down syndrome, he in fact has Down syndrome, not an affliction. We need tostrive for person-first language where an individual is not defined by theirdisability. If the media takes the lead, the rest of us will be educatedabout appropriate, whole-person language regarding persons with disabilities."

Ms. Kidder doesn't fault the media for its disability language gaffes.When her son was an infant, she too was unaccustomed to person-first language.

"Initially, I thought person-first language was overly sensitive andunnecessary. I quickly learned that our behavior often follows our language.Language sets a tone and standard of expectation. For parents of children withDown syndrome and other disabilities, the most exciting outcome arising fromGovernor Palin's candidacy is the forum to discuss the acceptance of peoplewith challenges. This discussion must include the power of language and theinfluence of the media in shaping national standards for language," concludesMs. Kidder.

Band of Angels was established in 1994 by Cynthia Kidder, a nationaladvocate for educating and employing individuals with Down syndrome and otherdisabilities. The organization introduced the Halo with a Twist (R) symbol forDown syndrome in 2007 and publishes stationery products, the Beautiful Facescalendar, the My Baby Can! developmental calendar, and the award-winning"Common Threads: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome," which was co-written byMs. Kidder and Harvard-educated Brian Skotko, M.D. To learn more about Band ofAngels products and outreach service, visit www.bandofangels.com .

SOURCE Band of Angels
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