Posted in Motherhood, The Up-side of Down's

Is Down’s Syndrome Cool?

Hello is it me you're looking for?
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

‘Get me an agent’











I have the occasional word about my experiences around Down’s Syndrome on this blog, and tend to keep this aspect of my life separated from my professional life as a journalist and PR. But this week my worlds collided, leaving me wondering if this post belongs on my personal or professional blog. Perhaps I will post on both?

In the week that I attended three interesting conferences – one about Autism and two about social media my social networks were buzzing about a little boy with Down’s Syndrome chosen to model for mainstream British retailer Marks & Spencer.

Suddenly Down’s Syndrome is cool! That is a sentence I never thought I would ever have the need to write.  Amazing things do indeed happen.

Let’s be a bit marketing about this now tho. What does this campaign say about the leverage of online influence as opposed to traditional methods of launching campaigns and recruiting models? It says that companies (like Marks & Spencer) who promote family values and family life as well as a bit of glamour and aspiration, by listening to what their consumers are saying online, (the mum of this child-model originally contacted them via Facebook, natch), can find themselves having a massive PR hit when they respond in the way they have done.

They are featured on the front page of the Times of London, and all the main news outlets, traditional, broadcast, print and digi, are featuring the story. It’s the biggest free advert for a Christmas catalogue I have ever seen. Both for Marks & Spencer – and for Down’s Syndrome.

‘Good looking kid with perfect features and a pushy mum’ doesn’t really make a good headline, whereas this really heart-warming tale of a mum, fed up (like so many of us) of feeling sidelined due to raising a child with a learning disability and perhaps in the wave of euphoria of the Paralympic Games; who has posted a comment on Facebook and in doing so broken into the mainstream on behalf of us all, that’s a great human story.

Finally a positive tale of a child living well with Down’s Syndrome, to dominate Google searches for a while. It is about time the unheard happy tales of everyday life were read about – to balance out the usual fodder of ‘breakthroughs in pre-natal screening’ and stories of bullying or verbal abuse.

There are many groups on Facebook for parents with children who have Down’s Syndrome – the majority are closed groups and operate in secret. Maybe, just maybe, we will feel a bit more confident about blogging and talking about our kiddies and our experiences now. This is the wonderful thing about how online influence well, influences! I am happy to be writing this today.



Surviving in the remote but glorious Pembrokeshire 'outback' isn't enough - I wanna thrive and feel happy to be alive....I hope my posts make you feel that way too :-)

3 thoughts on “Is Down’s Syndrome Cool?

  1. I think it would be great to hear more about the positive side of raising a child with Down’s Syndrome and also the less positive so that people can understand the challenges faced. I love seeing and hearing about Geraint’s life but am afraid to ask you anything in case it sounds a bit patronising. I have heard over and over, mothers with DS kids saying how they nearly terminated their pregnancies but were so glad they didn’t and I wonder how many lovely kids could have been saved if people were more aware of how fantastic kids with DS (and other) syndromes were, and especaially, how the difficult early years would be rewarded with such happy times when their children got older. My sisters second son is autistic and he was hell to raise as a toddler, just a 24/7 never ending job of work. But he changed at around age 6 and is now such a joyful person and loved by everyone. I also know some so called ‘normal’ kids who have been monsters their WHOLE lives and show no signs of changing. I admire what you have done Sarah and especially taking your family to live in such a wonderful place. Caroline x


  2. Thanks Mike….and to Caroline thanks too 🙂

    The thing about raising a kid with Down’s Syndrome is that there are good and bad aspects just as there are with any kids. The challenges faced by families with a child with Down’s Syndrome are great – and varied.

    Talking to other families, we all have such different experiences because our situations are different and so are our kids. What we do tend to have in common is a shared experience of having our children sidelined, which isn’t pleasant. That’s why the mum with the kiddie in the M&S catalogue contacted the company – she just wanted to see images of children living well with DS reflected in the media for a change.

    What we also share is the need for our children to be accepted as worthwhile individuals with worthwhile lives. The medical profession’s determination to portray our children as ill and suffering – and the focus on pre-natal diagnosis and then the enormous pressure to abort babies (up to full term) on the basis of a diagnosis of DS vexes many of us, because the stories we are told when making that decision are at odds with the reality we experience when bringing up our children.

    Children with DS given opportunities like any other other child, and offered understanding and assistance, are confounding the medical profession by living long and successful lives. We just need society to chill out and catch up with them now please!

    My boy (and I can only speak for my experience, because kids with DS are as different to each other as any other child) is a handful. no question, but a lot of the issues we face are due to the dangers that society represents to him, the lack of understanding and tolerance and finding other kids willing to accept sharing their space with my boy. His experience of life stands at risk of being limited not due to his difficulties, but due to lack of opportunities caused by the problem society has with DS.

    Geraint has a severe learning disability and struggles with mainstream approaches and is one of a large number of children with the need to learn naturally by experiencing and doing and repeating, rather than formally in a classroom. He’s at the lower end of the intellectual continuum, but has the ability to teach other people a lot. His intellectual difficulties are a massive challenge for us to manage, but he is learning at his own pace.

    Being around someone with this level of disability can make people feel uncomfortable, because they don’t know what to do. I get that. It’s just really tough managing my boy and them at the same time – which is why many families withdraw from mainstream society – exhausted, anad just find support within the community that understands what they are dealing with. That needs to change. Society needs people with Down’s Syndrome, in my opinion.


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