Tamara Taggart – The Two Conversations that Changed Her Life
Changing the Conversation
Last night I had the pleasure of presenting at Edu Talks with CTV anchor, Tamara Taggart. Tamara is the mother of three children, ages 8, 7 and 5 yrs. Her first born, Beckett has Down Syndrome and he has been the inspiration for her movement to “Change the Conversation”. She re-told two significant conversations which created an epiphany for her and led her to begin her goal of Changing the Conversation.
Tamara’s Medical Story
Tamara’s pregnancy tests had predicted that she was considered extremely low risk for having a child with Down Syndrome.
5 days later…
The phone rings and the doctor calls to say…
“I’m sorry to tell you that the blood tests have confirmed that your son has Down Syndrome.”
At that moment, Beckett was in the loving arms of grandparents and Tamara and Dave were upstairs taking the call. They were shocked, they had a big cry and then they realized that how they shared this news would impact how everyone would think about Beckett. Tamara and her husband committed to being strong and positive and telling people (and this was explicitly written in their group email to everyone they knew) that they did not want people to say “I’m sorry”. They were the parents of a beautiful baby boy called Beckett – the light of their life.
The medical appointments that followed were full of negative predictions…
- He’s more likely to have Leukemia
- He’s more likely to get Alzheimer’s at a younger age
- He probably won’t go to a regular school
- He won’t be able to drive
- It’s very unlikely that he’ll get married
- He’ll be much slower to walk and talk
When Tamara and Dave were worried that he was underweight because he had a hard time eating, the medical professional said not to worry about this, as he had a lifetime ahead of him of being overweight…
When they went to see an eye specialist about Beckett’s cataracts, Tamara was pregnant. The doctor asked Tamara if she would be getting testing done this time and that she was brave to be pregnant again…
Tamara fired this doctor on the spot and realized, I don’t want people like this in our life; I am the Captain of Beckett’s team.
The Second Conversation that Created an Epiphany for Tamara
When Beckett was 4yrs, daughter Zoe was 3 yrs., and their other daughter Poppy was 1 yrs., Tamara found out that she had a rare type of cancer. When she first met her oncologist, she had an incredibly positive conversation. The doctor expressed empathy and hope. He had many positive messages to share with her. Tamara couldn’t believe how much positivity and hope surrounded her which was expressed by this positive doctor and the caring nurses.
She then realized just how wrong the first conversation had been, when the doctor had called to say in a very sad voice how she was sorry to confirm that Beckett had Down Syndrome.
Tamara shared how much joy Beckett has brought to their whole family. She described the advocating she has to do for him and how she always makes a point of letting people know if they say something that offends her. For example, the word “retarded”. She realizes that people usually don’t even realize what they are saying, but when she asks if they could please not use this word around her or her family; it creates a new awareness for them.
She encourages people to be curious.
~ Talk to people who have special needs
~ Smile at them, don’t act as if they are not there
~ When children walk by someone in a wheelchair don’t “shush” them, explain that this person might have been born this way, or might have been in an accident
~ Encourage children to ask questions and have a greater understanding of other people
And how is Beckett doing…
Beckett is going to a regular school and has a wonderful assistant to help him. He has friends and they come to his birthday party and he is invited to their birthday parties. He loves music and he does talk. He may not always be understandable but he is talking. He lights up a room. His sisters adore him and don’t think of him as “different”.
I applaud Tamara for everything she is doing to help the medical professionals and people everywhere change their conversations. You can view Tamara’s heartfelt Ted Talk on Changing the Conversation below.
The Invisible Disabilities
My presentation that followed was on Anxiety and Play-Based Strategies for Managing Anxiety. I realized that my topic connected to Tamara’s, because anxiety is a very misunderstood invisible disability, just like learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, etc.
My hope is that I can help people better understand anxiety and how to interact and support people who have high anxiety. One lady thanked me at the end of my presentation for helping her better understand her husband and how his brain is working since his stroke. One never knows what impact our conversations have on others, but as Tamara said, we can all make a difference in “changing the conversation”.
PS. Did you know that 96% of children lie? Would you like to know why and what research has discovered is the best way of addressing lying? For more information, view my free report on Why Children Lie.
Want to Connect?
Subscribe now to receive free weekly parenting tips and inspiration.