This Beautiful Girl is Helping End the Stigma Associated With Down Syndrome

International   Josh Brahm   Jun 17, 2014   |   12:30PM    Washington, DC

Michelle Clark will never forget the first time she took her daughter Mara out for the first time.

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Photo credit: Sunday Mirror / Nicholas Bowman

Mara was born with Down syndrome, and they had spent Mara’s first few weeks of life in the hospital. Now Michelle was excited to take Mara to the grocery store. Everything was going great, until they were standing in the checkout line, and Michelle heard an elderly woman behind her say, “Aah, she doesn’t have it too bad does she?”

The elderly woman may have meant well, but the sting of her comment hit Michelle’s heart like a dagger. Sadly, Michelle had to deflect many more ignorant and insensitive comments over the next few weeks.

That was when Michelle decided to do something about it.

Michelle explained to The Daily Mirror, “I wanted to scream from the rooftops: ‘Mara is a person not a diagnosis!’ I had to do something to educate people about the impact their words and looks had.”

Michelle saw Mara playing peek-a-boo behind their curtain and took a picture, and made a poster with the caption, “I am Mara. I have Down syndrome. I am not Down syndrome.”

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Image credit: Phoenix features

The poster was put on Facebook, and the new meme went viral. Parents from all over the world started taking their children’s pictures and putting similar captions on them.

Mara’s story actually begins in the womb. Michelle knew that there was a higher chance of Down syndrome because she was 45 when she got pregnant with Mara. Michelle and her husband Ben did some research and decided they could handle it if they got the difficult news.

Sure enough, Michelle’s doctor informed both of them that Mara was suspected of having Down syndrome.” Michelle told The Daily Mirror, “From the way he said it, you’d have thought he was telling us a world war had started.”

This is sadly too common. As LifeNews has reported before, doctors very often encourage abortion as soon as they reveal an unborn child’s diagnosis to her parents. This is true, even though a small 2011 study reported that 99% of Down syndrome children reported being happy with their lives.

I’m grateful that Ben and Michelle were more life-affirming than most parents are when they discover their child has Down syndrome. “We didn’t see what there was to worry about,” Michelle told The Daily Mirror. “Down’s didn’t scare us.”

I hope Michelle’s meme continues to spread, educating society about Down syndrome. I hope one day moms with their newly born children diagnosed with Down syndrome will be able to go to grocery stores without hearing hurtful comments like, “She doesn’t have it that bad, does she?”

I wish more people had the attitude that clinical laboratory specialist and LifeNews contributorRebecca Taylor has: “Making genetics my profession, I have always thought a person is more than just a sum of their genes. So for me, a person with Down syndrome is so much more than their extra chromosome 21. The syndrome is not who they are. It does not define them.”