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Mom of kid with special needs fights to change perceptions of beauty

Jill is a sometime runner and expert wine taster from sunny San Antonio. She has a degree in social psychology, one husband and three children. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Babble and she's regular...

Why shouldn't a kid with Down syndrome be a model?

If you open up a kid’s clothing catalog or hop on a website advertising children’s toys, clothes or other paraphernalia, you’ll likely see small humans who look happy and clean. No grape juice stains on the shirt, no mismatched socks or messy hair. Images of kids pouting or picking their noses? Nope, none of that. It’s advertising and we don’t expect it to look real.

Or do we?

The advertising industry has made great strides with diversity. Go to any website that sells stuff for kids and you’ll see racial and ethnic diversity among the models. Sure, you’ll see little blond girls with blue eyes and rosy cheeks, but you’ll also see children of color, children with distinctly Asian features and children of mixed race. Kids in catalogs look like our kids.

Or do they?

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Megan Nash is a mom who has been trying to get her 15-month-old son, Asher, into modeling. Asher has an adorable, pudgy baby face, a button nose and strawberry-blond hair. He’s super-photogenic and loves to make silly faces. Nash has been submitting photos of her son to a modeling agency in Georgia called C2 Kids in an attempt to get him featured in ad campaigns for various companies, such as the famous children’s clothing brand OshKosh B’Gosh.

Did I mention Asher has Down syndrome?

The modeling agency owner told Nash that she didn’t send Asher’s picture forward for the OshKosh campaign because the company “didn’t specify special needs.”

Nash is on a mission to make advertising more diverse. The Facebook page Kids with Down Syndrome posted photos of Asher and called out the C2 agency and OshKosh for lack of inclusiveness. The page challenged their 350,000-plus followers: “let’s make a difference — share so they see Asher.” To date, over 104,000 people have answered that call.

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Nash’s message is clear: Change the world’s view on people with disabilities and teach people that kids and adults with special needs are not trends that come and go with advertising. She has a point. We want to identify with the people we see in advertisements and magazines. If something is going to be relatable to us as consumers, we want to see how it fits into our family. We want to see just a little bit of “Hey, we see you and we’re including you.” 

I totally get this. One of my sons has a limb difference. I refuse to call it a special need or a disability because it isn’t either of those things, but he looks different, doesn’t he? Maybe you don't notice right away, but you notice.

Waiting in line. #waco #texas #cheese #kidsofinstagram #luckyfin #waiting

A photo posted by Ripped Jeans & Bifocals (@jillrobbins2012) on

I don’t see kids who look like Zack in magazines or catalogs unless the focus is limb differences or special needs. So I think Megan Nash is onto something. And others agree. Nordstrom’s July catalog featured a model in a wheelchair. Parents magazine has a child with Down syndrome on their cover.

Nash says, “I want people to realize that all children with Down syndrome and other disabilities are incredible human beings and we want OshKosh to ideally want to help the world’s perception. So many other companies have started doing it so it’s really just a matter of 'when will they?'” 

An OshKosh B’Gosh corporate spokesperson has confirmed that they’ve been in touch with Nash and are planning a meeting with her and Asher. It looks like the “let’s make a difference — share so they see Asher” has worked.

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Moms who have kids with Down syndrome buy clothes for their kids. Moms who have kids in wheelchairs buy clothes for their kids. As a mom of a kid with a not-so-typical anatomy, I’ve spent a crap-ton of money on OshKosh and Carter's clothes, and I would have been over the moon to see a kid who looked like my kid in one of their advertisements. A children's clothing company shouldn't have to specify to an ad or modeling agency that they're open to models with special needs. That should be a given. It shouldn't be a discussion.

Get with the program, OshKosh. Asher is seriously adorable and an extra chromosome shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether or not you put him in your ads. He really makes me want to go out and buy some overalls.

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