An Auckland mother has spoken out about society's continued judgement against children with Down Syndrome.
Angela Roberts, a mother-of-three, was lectured in a public place by a stranger who saw her 4-year-old daughter, who cannot walk, in a carrying device.
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Roberts took her son and daughter, named Nikita, out to lunch at Henderson's Westfield Mall earlier this week. Nikita, who has Down Syndrome, was strapped to Roberts' back in a child carrier.
Roberts says an older woman sitting in the same eatery began staring at her and Nikita. The woman then approached Roberts, asking for Nikita's age.
"We get that a lot, so I thought nothing of it," Roberts told Newshub. "I replied she is four-and-a-half.
"The woman's reply left me stunned. She decided to lecture me about something she knew nothing about."
The woman proceeded to click her tongue, looking at Nikita with disappointment.
"The woman smugly told me 'your daughter should be walking, mothers baby their children - no wonder kids these days are so lazy'," says Roberts.
"I felt the tears coming. In public, as per usual, we [get] lots of stares. Some with smiles, some not.
"I was going to defend my actions and my daughter, but got so angry. Why should I have to justify what I choose to do with my child? Why should I explain my daughter has Down Syndrome and can't walk among other things?
"It shouldn't matter whether a child has a disability or not."
Roberts says she often receives "filthy looks" and frequently will justify to strangers why she parks in disabled car parks.
"I've been confronted for parking. I explain it's for my daughter, and have been told 'yeah right'. My daughter has a very low immune system and is also on acute kidney watch."
The mum-of-three wishes people would be more open to learning about children with disabilities, showing curiosity rather than judgement.
"I wish people would ask questions in a positive way. I'm happy to give answers," she says.
"Wave and give a smile. Nikita loves people and will happily blow you a kiss. Don't ignore people that are different, no matter the age - we all have feelings.
"Don't judge us or pity us, we love our children."
Roberts says people should stop being defined by their disability.
"We are not Down Syndrome. We are people with Down Syndrome.
"Don't think they are all the same. Everyone has their own personality."
After the incident Roberts took to Facebook, posting in the group 'You know you're in west Auckland when' to express her aggravation.
"I received amazing support from the community. It made me realise I'm not the only one who goes through this and these naive people are actually a minority.
"It takes a village to raise a child, and I'm forever proud of my community for showing kindness and empathy. Keep building each other up - we need more of it."