Mum’s mission to challenge stigma

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Tania Clifton with her sons Noah, 22 months, John, 3, and Ethan, three months.
Camera IconTania Clifton with her sons Noah, 22 months, John, 3, and Ethan, three months. Credit: Supplied

A Geraldton mother is fighting to change the stigma surrounding Down syndrome by writing about the reality of raising a child with the genetic disorder.

Through the Facebook page Smile Like Me, Tania Clifton shares photos and stories of her second son Noah, hoping to dispel myths and misconceptions about Down syndrome.

Mrs Clifton made the page in 2015 after she tried to book travel insurance for her family, only to realise she would be charged extra for having a son with Down syndrome.

Frustrated, Mrs Clifton decided to make it her life’s mission to educate people about Down syndrome.

“There has never been a better time for someone with Down syndrome to be born,” she said.

“They are employed, they’re married, they’re doing everything that we can do, and that’s what people need to be aware of.

“The only difference is that tiny, little extra chromosome, that’s it.

“They still have the same wants, desires and needs as us.”

Down syndrome is the most common chromosome disorder, affecting one in every 700-900 babies worldwide.

The genetic condition occurs when there is an extra chromosome in each cell, meaning people with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

Those with the disorder often have common characteristics, such as stunted growth, almond-shaped eyes and some level of intellectual disability.

A test for Down syndrome can be done before a baby is born and can be confirmed by a blood test.

When Noah was diagnosed with Down syndrome, Mrs Clifton said she and husband Paul were scared.

“I hit Google and I thought ‘my life is over, how am I going to do this?’,” she said.

“I didn’t have the education that I have now.

“I had only really known one or two people that had Down syndrome.

“But then I actually met parents of children with Down syndrome and I thought ‘this is nowhere near how scary I thought it was going to be’.

“I was so scared for him, and my family, and I don’t think that was fair; if I’d really known the truth and what it was like I think my reaction would have been a lot different.”

Smile Like Me reached 1000 likes on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.

Mrs Clifton said she would continue to raise awareness through the page and hoped Noah’s options in the future would be endless.

“I want to see people be more accepting of people with differences, no matter what it is,” she said.

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