One brave mum began a global campaign by posting a picture of her little daughter online with a very strong message.
Broken-hearted after one too many comments about her daughter Mara, who was born with Down Syndrome, mum Michelle Clark decided to take the matter into her own hands.
“I wanted to scream from the rooftops: ‘Mara is a person not a diagnosis!’” said the mum. “I had to do something to educate people about the impact their words and looks had.”
Michelle took an adorable photo of Mara playing peek-a-boo behind the curtains and made it into the poster writing, ‘I am Mara. I have Down Syndrome. I am not Down Syndrome. I am Mara."
By placing the poster on Facebook, Michelle created a global phenomenon.
Now parents all over the world followed with posters of their own children with Down Syndrome, hoping to change perceptions.
When she found out she was pregnant, the 45-year-old mum and her husband Ben were told their baby had Down Syndrome.
“The doctor took Ben and I into a room. From the look on his face we knew he had grave news,” Michelle, from Cambridge in the UK said.
“From the way he said it, you’d have thought he was telling us a world war had started. We didn’t see what there was to worry about. Down’s didn’t scare us," she said.
‘The Down’s Baby’ was how doctors referred to Mara, said the mum.
“She’s called Mara, I’d say. I couldn’t believe people – they didn’t realise how insensitive they sounded,” she said.
Once Mara, now nearly two, was well enough to go home, Michelle would take her out and the tot would always attract attention.
But Michelle was frustrated to find that people always saw Mara’s condition before they saw Mara.
So she decided to take action with her Facebook poster – and the idea went global. “It’s amazing to think that around the world, families are sharing Mara’s message.”
Yesterday, parents with kids who took part in the Lose the Label campaign paid tribute to Michelle and her husband Ben, and joined together to celebrate the powerful cause.