Barrett family share emotional story of sister with Down syndrome

Like so many All Blacks fans, Zara is keen to get their attention after the game. And she does get special attention - because Beauden Barrett is her big brother.

Zara, or 'Zars' as she's called, is 16 years old. She's fun, she's kind - and she also has Down syndrome.

But she doesn't know she is any different, she just "loves life" - and loves her brothers.

Her mum Robyn and dad 'Smiley' have eight kids. There are five brothers: Beaudy, Scotty, Jordie, Kane and Blake. With Beauden, Scott and Jordie all in the All Blacks, the rugby story is well known.

But now the Barretts are opening up about Zara to raise awareness of Down syndrome. It's a genetic condition that happens to one baby in every 1000 born in New Zealand - and it is never anybody's fault.

"People with Down syndrome need to feel loved and included," Beauden says.

"She's so awesome and we love that about her. She calls it how she sees it and she appreciates the simple things in life."

Zara, like most people with Down syndrome, faces challenges relating to her speech. But being part of a big family has really helped her improve.

"For Zara, we've just treated her normal the whole time. Inclusiveness is massive for any Down syndrome person in New Zealand," Jordie says.

The Barretts are dairy farmers in Pungarehu, in coastal Taranaki. They say the key to raising Beauden, Jordie and Scott, as well as giving Zara a great life, has been treating everyone equally.

"She's funny, cheeky, and very honest. If you are playing up - she'll tell you, if you are being a lovely brother she will tell you that too," Scott says.

Not everyone with Down syndrome is so lucky, and almost all of them need one-on-one speech therapy - which actually receives no government funding.

The UpsidesDowns charity says it costs families an average of $4000 dollars a year and up to $10,000.

So the Barretts are working with UpsideDowns to fundraise so others can get the therapy they need - and give them the gift of speech.

Barrett family share emotional story of sister with Down syndrome
Photo credit: Newshub

"It is so important so they can feel included in conversation, in social circumstances, so they just so they can feel involved and as though they have value," Beauden says.

"Zara without speech couldn't keep us honest, couldn't share her views and points - and tell us how much she actually loves us and cares for us and supports us. It is super special that she can do that."

An ordinary Kiwi family, with all of them capable of extraordinary things.

The mother of the Barretts, Robyn, didn't really want to feature in this story as she is one of these 'Taranaki mums' who likes to stay in the background.

She wanted the focus to be on helping UpsideDowns - not the Barrett family and what makes it tick.

But at one point she handed Newshub a note that is too powerful not to share.

"Zara brings us all love, loyalty and honesty in its most purest form," it reads.

"Zara has taught us all to focus on the things in life that really matter."

To find out more about Down syndrome or to donate, go to www.UpsideDowns.co.nz

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