Life Advice



Ask Amy: Conversations about Down syndrome feel awkward

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Our family has/had three members with Down syndrome; my youngest sister was born with DS in 1968, and passed away in 2016.

I have a cousin with the condition, and my daughter and her husband have a son (our grandson) with Down syndrome.

I've been involved in the Down syndrome community for many years. I have a teaching degree in special education and was a special education educator for years.

Even with a greater socially open acceptance, I still experience social awkwardness when the topic of DS comes up.

Although I am perfectly comfortable chatting with others about Down syndrome, I don't know how to handle situations when others are uncomfortable.

When meeting someone for the first time, if I mention that we have a grandson with DS, the other person often looks like a "deer caught in the headlights.”


They don't know how to respond, and the conversation quickly becomes awkward and uncomfortable.

I could choose not to say anything in the first place, but then avoiding the obvious can also be uncomfortable.

It's hard to know if the other person would like to know more, or if they are anxious to change the subject.

Sometimes, if I encounter a person with DS and their family, I would love to approach them and say “Hi,” perhaps comment or ask questions if they seem at all receptive – but I often have a problem getting a feel for that, too.


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