A mother has penned an emotional and powerful message on behalf of her daughter who has Down Syndrome to Shortland Street after their "insensitive and ignorant" storyline about being born with Down Syndrome.

In episodes of Shortland Street this week the character of Zoe has been struggling with the news that she's possibly pregnant with a child who has Down syndrome.

Doctor Chris Warner, the father of the child, suggested Zoe have an abortion as the child will suffer and have medical issues.

The show has faced severe backlash after airing the controversial episodes, with Faith, who has Down Syndrome, and her mother Louise Chalmers-Wilson, deciding to speak out and address the issues raised in the show.


Taking to Facebook page Seeking Normal, Faith and her mum delivered a powerful message to the TV show, educating them about the reality of having Down Syndrome.

They say "no one is perfect", explaining Faith's life is brilliant and that living with Down Syndrome "doesn't define" her.

Faith, left, and her mother, Louise, took to Facebook to address the issues raised in Shortland Street regarding children with Down Syndrome. Photo / Supplied, TVNZ
Faith, left, and her mother, Louise, took to Facebook to address the issues raised in Shortland Street regarding children with Down Syndrome. Photo / Supplied, TVNZ

"Hey Shortland Street my name is Faith and I really like to sneak a look at your show because I love Doctors & Nurses," she started.

"Tonight my Mum heard about how Down syndrome babies can be born with heart defect, you are right as I had open heart surgery at 10 weeks old. It was scary and I spent my first Christmas in Starship Hospital. My Mum was only 17 so she was really winging it.

"But we totally rocked it and today I am 13 and I haven't had a single problem with my heart since. Not even when I dance, sing and run around with my friends, my custom-made heart keeps up with me, no matter what."

Faith admitted that she does have health issues, some of which were raised in the Shortland Street episode.

However, her mum says Faith copes perfectly well and has adapted to any medical issues she faces.

"You also mentioned the baby could have vision problems, yes I have vision problems so I got to get these wicked purple glasses to wear all the time ... my Mum has glasses too but hers are not purple, and she doesn't have Down syndrome.


"Babies with Down syndrome may also have hearing problems, yeap I have those too. My hearing aids are fluoro yellow and Blue sparkles. I love them as they help me to hear even better than people without them. Next time I might get purple to match my awesome glasses. I think Dad has hearing problems, he doesn't listen to my Mum, and he doesn't have Down syndrome.

"I have had a lot of hard times, I have had many medical procedures. Some small, some massive. But the bonus is Doctors know all about Down syndrome and my extra needs, so they can really help my body work it's best, no sweat.

"I love to read, I can read some really long books now, and I love to dance, I love grunge and rock music but I also like Katy Perry.

"I really like to see the best in people every day, I really hope you can do the same for me and my Co T21 mates. I hope you can educate people on your show about how strong I am and how awesome having a kid who sees the best in everything is to have around.

"The positive always outweigh the bad but I mean I am a teenager after all and we can be pretty dramatic.

"No one is promised perfect health, no one is guaranteed perfection. We are all unique and my Syndrome doesn't define me. So please don't let people think it does.

"Peace peace man. From Faith & Mummy."

Hey Shortland Street my name is Faith and I really like to sneek a look at your show because I love Doctors &...

Posted by Seeking Normal on Monday, 30 July 2018

The storyline has been heavily featured in recent episodes with Warner and Zoe's sister Kate also discussing Zoe's ability to raise the child.

Warner says Zoe is too young to raise a disabled child and that it will "crush her".

"Zoe's not a stay-at-home person at the best of times, now she'll be chained at home forever."

Louise told the Herald that she was initially excited about the episodes, but her tune soon changed when she saw the direction of the storyline suddenly change.

"I thought 'yes!'. This will be a fantastic platform to educate people on Down syndrome. Then the negative reaction of 'Chris' and the instant termination suggestion gutted me.

"It is a very raw, painful and bizarre thing to feel you have to validate your child's right to life.

"It is an awful thing to have a beautiful child who is, in reality, many people's worst fear.

"There is so much negativity around a diagnosis of Down syndrome, that people automatically believe it must be an awful thing. To have to validate your child's equal right to life, or to hear people say things like 'oh I could never raise a special needs child', it grates at you.

"I have had a lot of hard journeys in my 30 years and finding out Faith had Down syndrome wouldn't even make the top 10.

"Her little brother passed away almost six years ago from meningitis because of a rare syndrome, currarino. No one would ever dare tell me he shouldn't have been born."

The negative angle in Shortland Street inspired Louise to speak out, hoping her thought-provoking but funny letter would deliver some home truths.

She told the Herald she hopes her and Faith's voice can help educate not only Shortland Street, but knock down stereotypes surrounding Down syndrome.

"I can only hope people might stop and think about their comments or actions, not only towards people with Down syndrome, but anyone who may look or act differently to yourself and get to know the individual person before passing judgment. Especially on something as precious as one's right to life."

Kim Porthouse, spokesperson for The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, said the group is "appalled by the insensitive and ignorant storylines" portrayed on Shortland Street.

Porthouse said the storyline "reinforces a lot of the prejudice that having a child with Down syndrome is a burden".

She said the organisation has received calls from a number of families and people with Down syndrome who have been upset by the episodes.

"But what is worse is that a lot of our young people with Down syndrome absolutely love Shortland Street and suddenly one of their heroes tells them their families would have been better of without them," she said.

Porthouse said the issue of screening is a sensitive issue and many women are not made aware of it. Those who do receive a positive test are often not given balanced information.

"These parents are put under a lot of pressure to make only one choice, to abort, and the statements by Dr Warner on Shortland Street just emphasise that."

In a joint statement, TVNZ and South Pacific Pictures said they acknowledge the storyline addresses a sensitive topic but Shortland Street is known for tackling a range of challenging issues that New Zealanders face.

"The show's producers work closely with medical advisors to ensure health storylines are depicted with care in the context of a drama.

"We realise that not everyone will agree with every choice we make, but we always appreciate when people come to us to share their feedback. We consider the full range of the audience views when making future decisions."

In 2016, the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association released a video highlighting the normal lives people with Down syndrome have.

NZ Down Syndrome Association's uplifting awareness video for Down Syndrome Day 2018 includes a young woman who mentions the goal of 'being an actress on Shortland Street'.

In the video, young adults with Down syndrome explain that they are still able to function in everyday society, including having the same dreams, aspirations and goals that most people have.

One girl with Down syndrome said her goal was to become an actress on Shortland Street.