Mum’s post about Down syndrome gets huge reaction online

Kristine Tarbert

What’s in a word?

One mum’s post for a simple change in terminology has received a huge reaction online.

Sarah Roberts, from the UK, has a five-year-old son Oscar, who was born with Down Syndrome. Taking to Facebook she has called out doctors, nurses and sonographers for using the term ‘risk’ in relation to a child being born with the condition.

Sarah's son Oscar has Down syndrome. Photo: Facebook

Instead, she says, they should consider the word ‘chance’.

“If you look up the word risk in the dictionary, it says ‘a situation involving exposure to danger’... [but] the last time I looked, having Oscar hasn't exposed me or anyone else to danger,” she wrote on her Facebook page Don’t be Sorry.

Sarah posted on Facebook. Photo: Facebook

The post was prompted by one of her friends, who asked her own midwife to use the word ‘chance’ instead of ‘risk’ when talking about her nuchal scan, which is part of the screening test for Down syndrome.

“When women go for their scan around 12 weeks, bloods are taken as well as a measurement of the fluid behind the babies neck and from those combined results, they're given their ‘risk’ of having a baby with Down Syndrome,” Sarah’s post continued.

Sarah with Oscar as a baby. Photo: Facebook

Sarah, who is also mum to son Alfie and daughter Florence, says she understands that a lot of women want to have further testing to find out, but she’s been puzzled by the use of the word ‘risk’.

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“I (along with a lot of other parents of kids with DS) feel that ‘chance’ would be a much better use of language,” she wrote.

She says having Oscar was not a 'danger'. Photo: Facebook

The post struck a chord with parents and medical professionals alike. It’s been shared over 4.5k times and received over 1.5k comments from all around the world.

“I'm a paediatrician (and parent). Honestly never thought about this but completely agree. If it comes up in practice will definitely think about my wording. Thank you,” one person commented.

“I am a midwife and from now on I will use the word 'chance'. It sounds so much nicer all round and doesn't start off the process with negative thoughts,” another added.

Sarah's post has been shared over 4.5k times. Photo: Facebook

Many said the post has got them thinking about the language they use in their profession.

“I am a sonographer and I completely agree with the use of the word 'chance' and I will endeavour to use this word in future,” a person agreed.

“As a nurse who works in private industry (and sadly no chance of anything as wonderful as babies) your post has certainly got me thinking. 'Risk' is such a powerful & hard word that contains no joy or compassion,” another said.

Sarah has been blown away by the response. Photo: Facebook

Sarah has since been blown away by the response and says she’s received thousands of comments and private messages, many from healthcare professionals.

“All of whom have said they will be more mindful of their use of language and the way they approach it in the future,” she wrote online.

The difference a word can make.

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