The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway, 8th Floor
New York New York 10012
800-221-4602
info@ndss.org 

Response to The Change Up

August 8, 2011

Neal H. Moritz
Producer, The Change Up c/o Dan Aloni, CAA
2000 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067

CC: Jon Lucas Scott Moore David Dobkin

Dear Mr. Moritz,

I am writing to you on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society to express our strong concern with a comment made during the film, "The Change Up." The comment made by Ryan Reynolds' character, Mitch Planko, "Why aren't they talking - what are they retarded?" is exactly what we strive to work against. To then add that one baby looks "Downsy" is remarkably insensitive, demeaning and hurtful to people with Down syndrome and their families. This statement is untrue and inaccurate. Children with and without disabilities reach developmental milestones at their own pace, and those with Down syndrome should not be mocked for their abilities or appearances.

At the National Down Syndrome Society, we understand that this type of content is often the result of a lack of information and/or a lack of exposure to people with cognitive disabilities. We hope that you take this opportunity to educate yourself about cognitive disabilities and gain a better understanding.

Approximately 400,000 people in the United States have Down syndrome, which is caused by a third copy of chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays at all ages, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses. Similarly, while there are common physical traits associated with Down syndrome, each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.

Individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities work very hard – harder than most people – to learn how to read, write, play musical instruments, participate in sports, live independently, and become valuable members of their communities. They deserve to be respected and celebrated for their success and achievements, and not to have their clinical diagnosis used as a punch-line. More often than not, these individuals are underestimated their whole lives by people who focus on their disability, rather than their abilities.

When people with Down syndrome are inappropriately referenced, it sustains and perpetuates these low expectations and negative stereotypes and further impedes the acceptance of people with disabilities in schools, the workplace and the community. Negative and inaccurate public perceptions are the greatest barriers the National Down Syndrome Society faces in achieving acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

We would like to schedule a conference call with you and your creative team to learn more about the film and its nature. We ultimately request that you remove this scene and language from the film immediately. Please advise a time and date that you're all available to speak. I patiently await your response.

Sincerely,

Sarah Schleider
National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

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