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Tamara Taggart: My son’s Down syndrome does not define him

“Beckett is pretty amazing, all three of my children are. His extra chromosome may make doing some things hard for him, but Down syndrome is not what defines him.”

Tamara and her husband Dave have three children: son Beckett and daughters Zoë and Poppy. They also share their home with George their Airedale Terrier, Penelope their rescue dog from Mexico, and rescue cats Broccoli and Brussel Sprout.

I no longer say Beckett has ‘special needs. It’s important to listen to disabled people, “special needs” didn’t come from the disability community, everyday I learn something new and that is a good thing. Disabled individuals get to decide the terminology they are okay with, I now know it is always okay to say ‘disabled’.

I have definitely felt isolated at different times over the years but I think a lot of it had to do with my own confidence. I was so scared when we were told Beckett had Down syndrome, I went to some ‘mommy groups’ when my son was very small but I always felt all the eyes on my baby and it made me feel uncomfortable. It was a tough time to navigate but once Beckett went to school I realized that he is a social butterfly, lots of friends and we have a ton of support through friends and family.

Beckett and my daughter Zoë are only 13 months apart in age, it’s always been like having twins with them! They hit all their milestones together and it was so much fun, Zoë is very protective of her brother, they have an unbreakable bond. A few years ago, Beckett left our house and walked to a very busy street, it was extremely traumatic for our family, especially Zoë. That experience changed all of us. As a family we are teaching each other all the time, my daughter Poppy is always reminding me that Beckett is a teenager now and I need to start treating him like one!

It’s really annoying when I hear things like, oh ‘downs kids are so happy” or “downs kids are so affectionate”. First, don’t say “downs kid” – UGH. Also, my child is happy and loving because that’s who he is as a person, not because of his extra chromosome. My child is not an object, he is a well-rounded individual who is just like everyone else, the stereotypes society attaches to Down syndrome are exhausting and disheartening.

Beckett is in his first year of high school, he has always loved school and the challenge of learning something new. I’m pretty sure we hold the world record for most HotWheels in one family, he loves his HotWheels!

Beckett is an incredible swimmer and dancer and he knows his way around most video games. I love watching Beckett when he is with his sisters and friends, he has an incredible sense of humour – there are a lot of laughs in our house.

Beckett is our first child, so he has taught my husband and I so much about parenting. My joys of parenting Beckett are the same as my joys of parenting my daughters, I love my kids so much – everything I do is for them. We’re always learning in our family, the biggest thing for me right now is to guide our kids into the teenage years with respect and kindness.

My biggest challenges are how the rest of the world sees individuals with Down syndrome, there is systemic discrimination and a lot needs to change.

We have been taught that having a child with a disability is nothing to celebrate, this narrative has been fueled by non-disabled people. It’s not only dangerous but it is wrong, its because of this discriminatory belief that we are constantly fighting and advocating for basic human rights for individuals like my son Beckett.

Beckett is pretty amazing, all three of my children are, his extra chromosome may make doing some things hard for him but Down syndrome is not what defines him.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Tamara Taggart is a community leader, activist, veteran broadcaster, cancer survivor, mother, and former candidate in the 2019 Canadian election.

Throughout her career as a broadcaster on local television, radio and digital media, Tamara has earned her place as a trusted voice in Vancouver. For over two decades, she has volunteered her efforts on issues that relate to health care and the well-being of children and people with disabilities.

Tamara chaired BC Women’s Hospital’s ‘Hope Starts Here’ campaign, raising $17 million for the newborn intensive care unit. She also served as chair of the BC Cancer Foundation’s Inspiration Gala for five years, raising more than $16 million for cancer research and treatment in British Columbia.

2015: Tamara was awarded the Order of BC – the highest honour awarded by the Government of British Columbia – in recognition of her years of public service.

2016: Tamara received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of the Fraser Valley.



2014 TED Talk:
Two Conversations that Changed My Life” This struck a chord with medical professionals and universities around the world, by reframing the way healthcare practitioners communicate hope.

Telus Talks with Tamara Taggart (wherever you listen to podcasts)

Follow her on:
Instagram @tamarataggart  and Twitter: @tamarataggart

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