Welcome to Make a Difference Monday, a new feature where I hope to, on occasional Mondays, feature a child with special needs that is making a difference in the area of inclusion. This week, I’d like to focus on….our kids as models, fashion models, on magazine covers, etc. Because it is a topic that has been on my mind recently.
This past spring, my own child with special needs had the opportunity to do a fashion show, as a model, for 77 Kids. My heart still soars when I think about it! Here is the video, he comes in at about 1:40, if you want to FF:
Aren’t they all just the cutest? And doesn’t my child deserve to be there with all the others? Of course he does. He needed a bit of extra assistance, is that so horrible? No, it’s not. Another baby with Down Syndrome is making news lately, as she is the first baby with Down Syndrome to land a major fashion campaign.
This is what inclusion is all about. But it shouldn’t be huge news when a child with special needs lands a major campaign. It’s not big news when other kids do, is it? No, because it’s common. And it needs to become more commonplace for our kids.
A few weeks ago, I was at a company’s business office for a meeting–it was the office that publish fairly large and widely read kids/family publications in our city. As I was being shown around the office, at one point, I was shown the wall where 12 years’ worth of magazine covers were hanging. I observed (out loud, oops, it’s a reflex!) “I don’t see any kids with special needs on your covers.” And the response was, “Well, of course, we have our <insert name of magazine entirely devoted to families with special needs> for that.” For the record, those were not his exact words, but it was something close. (and no offense to him, he’s a great guy and we have a good working relationship)
Me (hangs head), and says nothing.
This is what is so frustrating about trying to explain inclusion to people. If our kids are going to be in the media, we don’t just want:
- to advertise medicines
- to advertise therapeutic equipment
- to give you the cutest smile ever in an effort to plea for money to support our cause/condition/charity
- to advertise special schools, children’s hospitals or something related
- to be the photo in some human interest story about a charity walk, the Special Olympics or something else related to us as kids with special needs
- to be the cover photo for your organization’s Annual Report
Our kids make up 15% of the population. Therefore, ideally, we want to be 15% of the media ads (with kids) that you see. This should include:
- mass merchants and big box stores (and some have done this)
- big name brands of children’s clothing, shoes, toys, etc.; not everything we purchase is just for kids with special needs; in fact very little of it is
- restaurants (we eat at them, really we do!)
- every big brand, not just ones targeted at ‘our population’
- to be pictured in regular news stories and features–you know, the ones that have NOTHING to do with us being a kid with special needs
It’s not that difficult to include us. There are enough of us “out there” in the media now, that we can do it, or connect you to families who can. If you are a company committed to diversity, you should include people with disabilities as one of your minority groups. So if you are making it a goal to hire or portray a certain percentage of minorities, why aren’t we included?
Our kids are just as sweet, just as cute, as all the other kids you have in your ads. Ours also have some amazing stories to tell, as the result of the struggles they overcome every day. Inclusion builds understanding. People are “afraid” of our kids, and the more they see us–in person, in print, in the media, the more commonplace it will be. Which helps everyone in the long run. Decreases discrimination, bullying and whole lot of other problems.
So, what do you say? Include us in your next campaign?