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Raising A Daughter With Down Syndrome Makes Me Dream Of A More Inclusive Society

It will not be an easy task to change people's views of all the little Louises of the world, or of anyone who's different and wishes that their difference wouldn't define their life.
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A year ago, the world got to know Louise through a message that started like this: "This is my daughter. Louise. She is 4 months old, and has two arms, two legs, two great chubby cheeks, and one extra chromosome."

My wife, Caroline, wrote these words because she could no longer tolerate how people would reduce our daughter to her Down Syndrome. She could no longer tolerate that only four months after she was born, people were already mapping out her future.

Many media outlets reported on Caroline's message. A Facebook page was born. These were the first signs to indicate that views on disability were about to change. I felt that there was hope for the world to open its eyes, just as I had opened mine.

Before Louise was born, I didn't have the faintest idea about disability. As soon as I heard about her Down Syndrome, it was as if my world came crashing down. In the silence of that hospital room, I felt depressed; an enormous cloud came over me. It was suffocating. I cried. I cried a lot. I felt alone. Lost, in the dark. But gradually, the fog began to lift. I saw the world differently. I saw the light of a new day. Of course, this did not happen right away.

One afternoon, I got a text message from my wife. She had posted a message on Facebook, and it had touched people around the world.

Media outlets from across the world reached out. Over the span of a few days, we became celebrities. We found ourselves uttering bizarre statements, such as: "Oh no, we can't do BBC this afternoon, we're booked with France2." We dealt with surreal reactions, such as as a message of congratulations from Michelle Obama's Chief of Staff or a video from Patrick Bruel.


Before Louise was born, I was trapped by my own misconceptions about the world. Now, my ideas have completely changed.

And before the fog had totally lifted, while it was still slightly clouding my vision, I read thousands of messages of support from around the world. We got thousands of messages from strangers who wanted to share their experiences with us. I read thousands of messages by people explaining how their beliefs had changed. Thousands of messages asking for help. Thousands of messages of love.

After all this, I felt an irresistible urge to change the world! I felt like I wanted to do something with all this positive energy running through my veins.

A few months later, Caroline wrote a book. In this book, she expressed her personal views, and called into question the way we perceive "the other." One step forward! But I understood rather quickly that the road to changing people's views would be long and that we had to be patient.

It will not be an easy task to change people's views of all the little Louises of the world, or of anyone who's different and wishes that their difference wouldn't define their life.

Before Louise was born, I was trapped by my own misconceptions about the world. Now, my ideas have completely changed. I'm not going to say that disability is great, or that I think it's wonderful that Louise has Down Syndrome. What I do know is that we cannot continue to live in a society which does not respect difference. We are all in need of kindness, and we all need to be treated with respect. Louise needs you. You need Louise.

I dream of an inclusive society. I dream that you could see past your own walls.

Dream with me!

This article was originally published on HuffPost France and was translated into English.