You’ll Love How This Tot With Down Syndrome Became a Model

1k
1k
0

Ellie Stafford is a model to her family — and now to the world.

unnamed-2
Brent Drinkut / Statesman Journal

The 2-year-old from Aurora, Oregon, who has Down syndrome, is clearly photogenic, although her mother, Tiffany Stafford, never really thought to pursue a modeling career for her daughter, Statesman Journal reported.

It wasn’t until her two older boys, 6 and 8, spotted a girl with Down syndrome in a toy ad for Target that Stafford realized how beneficial it would be for them to see more people like their sister in the media.

“I like the idea of her face being seen and other kids with disabilities to see that and say, ‘Hey, that’s like me,'” Stafford told Statesman Journal. “It’s like she’s just any other kid.”

unnamed-1
Brent Drinkut / Statesman Journal
unnamed
Brent Drinkut / Statesman Journal

Ellie got involved with modeling through Changing The Face Of Beauty, an organization co-founded by Katie Driscoll, a photographer and mother of six, including a daughter with Down syndrome. Driscoll decided to take action after failing to find advertisements showing kids with disabilities and has since launched a global campaign to make advertisements more inclusive.

“I believe globally we’re changing the way people look at models as well as people with differences,” Driscoll previously told The Mighty in an email, “and that makes me so very happy.”

To see more photos of Ellie, view the Statesman Journal photo gallery here

Related: Target Shows Halloween Is for Children of All Abilities

1k
1k
0

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Bully Attacks Boy With Autism Because of His Shoes, ‘Sneakerheads’ Respond

1k
1k
3

Jonathan Moran has more than a few supporters on his side (and his feet).

The 12-year-old from Linden, New Jersey, has autism, and was only at his new school for about a week when a bully attacked him on the school bus, WIAT News reported.

[He] started making fun of my sneakers and calling me fat, plus he called me stupid,” Jonathan told the outlet. “[He] started punching me, he broke my glasses, split my lip and gave me bruises around my face.”

The story touched the EMT and firefighters who treated Jonathan and then drove him home. They decided to surprise him with sneakers, a t-shirt, socks and a wooden American flag.

But they weren’t the only ones who Jonathan’s story struck a chord with.

 

Devlin Braswell, a student at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco, read about Jonathan on a website about shoes called Sole Collector.

Braswell, who also runs his own custom sneaker business, FBCC, posted on Instagram about how Jonathan’s story moved him. He decided to put together a care package of shoes and clothing to send to Jonathan.

boy-bullied-sneakers
Courtesy of Delvin Braswell

“When I read the story I was heartbroken because it was yet another story about a child getting bullied over his shoes,” Braswell told The Mighty in an email. “I didn’t know Jonathan was autistic until the end of the story but I had already made up in my mind I was going to send him some new shoes.”

Braswell contacted Jonathan’s mother, Hope Moran, to find out Jonathan’s shoe size and address. The package, which is en route, includes seven pairs of shoes as well as some shirts and jackets.

“I wanted to send him seven pairs of new shoes so every day of the week he could wear a new pair, if he wanted to,” Braswell told The Mighty. “I don’t know why but in my head I was like, ‘I bet no bully has seven pair of new shoes at once…’ I genuinely hate to see anyone getting picked on because of what they don’t have, especially materialistic items. We have to treat each other better at the end of the day. Instead of putting each other down we should be picking each other up.”

Moran expressed her gratitude to Braswell for his kindness.

It’s been amazing,” she told Sole Collector. “I think Jonathan’s going to have shoes for the rest of his life… I can’t imagine his face when he sees this box of sneakers.”

RELATED: To the Person Who Called Me ‘the World’s Ugliest Woman’ in a Viral Video

 

1k
1k
3
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Target Shows Halloween Is for Children of All Abilities

5k
5k
1

Target is once again being commended for its inclusion of people with disabilities in advertisements.

The retailer’s Halloween ad this year features a little girl dressed as Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” and using a mobility aid, CBS Los Angeles reported. The little girl has spina bifida.

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 10.37.20 AM
Via CBS

Lucy Castillo, 8, also has spina bifida, and she’s planning on being Elsa for Halloween this year as well. Her mother, Elizabeth Castillo, appreciated Target’s effort to show her daughter kids she can relate to.

I think it kind of just shows her it’s possible for her, too,” Castillo told CBS News. “You don’t see it often, and when she’s out, everybody kind of stares at her… They’re kids, just like everybody else. My daughter can do anything that any other little girl can do.”

This isn’t the first time Target has included differently-abled people in its advertisements, and the retailer says it will continue to showcase the diversity of its community.

Watch the video below for more on the story: 

5k
5k
1
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Applebee’s Employee With Autism Reportedly Unpaid for a Year

3k
3k
17

Caleb Dyl, from Middleton, Rhode Island, has been working three days a week at a local Applebee’s for about a year, but he is reportedly yet to be paid for any of his work.

The 21-year-old has autism and was placed in a training program by a state-funded organization called Resources for Human Development (RHD), WPRI 12 News reported. His initial placement in the training program at the restaurant was without pay to see if he took to the position of prep cook, however, Dyl was supposed to start receiving minimum wage in August of 2014 for the part-time job. His job coaches reported that he was a “capable and tireless” worker.

Despite several inquires by Dyl’s parents to RHD, the checks never came and Applebee’s says they were completely unaware of the matter until WPRI 12 News called to inquire.

Eleanor Clancy, regional director of operations for the Applebee’s chain, said a check will be mailed to Caleb Dyl for 166 hours of work as soon as possible. Dyl did not clock in for work, so the 166 hours is an estimate based on records kept by RHD for the job coaches who went to the restaurant with him. Dyl’s parents estimate their son worked about 350 hours.

He was enjoying the job, so we really weren’t focused on the income so much,” Caleb Dyl’s father, Bob Dyl, told the outlet. “But after that amount of time, you kind of wonder what’s going on.”

WPRI 12 News reached out to RHD for comment, but we were told confidentiality regulations restrict any comment about the case. The Mighty has reached out to the Applebee’s for comment but have not yet heard back.

Get more on the story from the video below: 

 

 

3k
3k
17
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

7 Ways Having a Child With Down Syndrome Makes My Life Better

3k
3k
3

We have celebrated three incredible years with our son, Knightly, our little knight in shining armor.

As I look back, I’ve discovered a simple truth: having a child with Down syndrome makes life better. Here are some of the ways:

1. I’ve enjoyed the baby stage longer.

Sometimes my jaw drops when I hang out with kids the same age as Knightly. When did they become these running, talking, complicated little adults having full on conversations, driving cars, buying houses and getting jobs?! Or whatever the other typical things 2-year-olds do nowadays.

Usually around the time I start to dwell on when Knightly will get to that stage, Knightly happily babbles and waddles over to me to give me a hug. He’s quite content at his pace of development. And I’m filled with joy holding my little cuddly marshmallow for more time than a typical parent might.

2. Every milestone is a big party.

When Knightly finally rolled over for the first time, it was like winning an Academy Award. Whenever your child shows a new skill, as small as it may seem to anyone else, you know how hard they’ve worked and how hard you’ve worked to get there — and it’s truly amazing. My heart jumps with joy every time, and I’m in awe of how much a miracle each milestone is.

3. My child changed my worldview and constantly pulls me out of the rat race.

Hello, I’m Drexelle and I’m an overachievaholic.

I believe one of God’s greatest gifts was giving me a child with special needs to rock my worldview and constantly pull me out of the rat race I so love to join in on. 

I’ve heard this from many other parents and have found it true for me. Greater than any education or class I’ve attended, Knightly has been my best teacher of what it means to be a better human. He slows and steadies me. He makes me stop and smell the roses (or, more likely in his case, grab for all nearby living things and objects).

At times, I’ve found strangers staring at his inability to do something, and as I grow self-conscious about how they feel about him or what they think, he’ll surprise them by blowing them a kiss. And they smile. And inside I couldn’t be any prouder.

4. My child has made me a fighter.

I was a hopeless people pleaser ’til Knightly was born. Confrontation felt so impossible for me. But becoming a mother makes you stronger (biologically and emotionally). And becoming a mother to a child of special needs pushes you into scenarios where you become a fighter.

Whether it’s at the doctor’s office, with insurance, with schools, with specialists, with random strangers or even family, you learn to have a voice and to use it loudly when needed. You have to fight for your child, and you’ll get opportunities to practice and get better at doing so.

5. I’ve gotten awesome parenting advice.

As a first-time parent, I can’t rave enough about how helpful all the therapists, doctors, nurses and specialists have been in teaching us how to become better parents and how to raise, grow, discipline and challenge our child.

Since Knightly was 6 weeks old, we’d see at least five therapists in specialized playtime at early intervention every week. And every week, we were able to bring up any parenting question we had — whether it was on teething, sleep training or behavioral issues, they’ve been absolutely invaluable.

And even more importantly, the people who have helped us along the way have been there with so much love, inspiration and encouragement. They’ve held my hand and kept my head up high through some of my toughest moments of grief. I know if we have other children, we’ll be putting to use everything we’ve learned from Knightly’s therapies to our next child.

That poor child.

6. I’ve joined a community that became my family.

It’s been called Joining the Club You Never Knew You’ve Always Wanted to Be a Part Of — and it’s true.

The parents we’ve met through Knightly’s therapies and through the support groups we’ve joined have been walking answers to prayer. They’ve become like family. We’ve seen each other go through incredible ups and some horrendously hard downs. We cry over each other’s hardships. We scream and cheer when each other’s kids accomplish a milestone. We understand each other’s journeys. And we’ve made lifelong friends (in fact, we’re already arranging marriages among our children).

It’s incredible to watch these kids and to know these families have watched Knightly grow since he was just a few weeks old.

7. I get to be my child’s parent.

Since the first heartbeat, baby belly kick and moment I held him in my arms, I couldn’t believe this child was mine. But he is. And this baby has taught and challenged me more in life than I ever would’ve imagined. As he waddles and falls down and gets back up and smiles with wonder at the world, I get to view his world more closely than if he were just some kid I’d heard about or someone else’s kid I knew. Every day, I get to see his journey and watch him grow. And I thank God that I get to be a part of it — that I get to celebrate it.

I thank God that, at the end of the day, I get to hold him in my arms, sing a lullaby and tuck him into bed at night to sleep. And that every morning, as soon as I open his door, I’ll see him standing up in his crib, smiling and reaching his arms out for me to hold him again.

When I first heard his diagnosis of trisomy 21 two years ago, all I could do was cry, praying to God that He would cure my baby and take it all away. But if it weren’t for Knightly having Down syndrome, I wouldn’t have met so many people who’ve moved, inspired and encouraged me and become dear friends to me. I wouldn’t have developed the panic disorder that caused me to be challenged, faced fears, get fit and ultimately start pursuing my lifelong dream of writing and speaking. My husband wouldn’t have turned his life upside down. He, a man who never cared to exercise before Knightly was born, now works out seven days a week to train for an Ironman.

I believe so many of the great things God has brought our way these past three years were because we got to be Knightly’s parents. And despite the hardships you might have to face as a parent to a child with special needs, your story will have those great moments, too. And those moments would’ve never happened if you hadn’t walked this path as your child’s parent.

This is dedicated to parents who have just found out their child has a special need. You are in for an incredible journey.

Follow this journey on Drexelle.com.

3k
3k
3
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Most Strangers Show Ignorance Toward the Child I Care For. One Man Didn’t.

383
383
1

Just a quick pre-post note. I didn’t use the true name of the girl I am caring for in this post in order to protect her identity. Instead, I have referred to her as P. Secondly, this is a highly personal post to me, and I realize my opinions are hugely subjective, but this man inspired me so much that I just had to write something. And finally, in referring to “we,” I mean myself and the other young lady who cares for P. We work longer shifts every other weekend together.

My name is Kirsty, and for the last three years, I have been working with disabled children. I started this work for a wonderful charity called PLUS, where I had the honor of meeting many amazing children and their families who truly taught me the meaning of resilience and happiness.

With a lot of heartache, I had to leave my job at PLUS so I could move back to England to start my speech and language therapist studies. I looked for a new job and applied for about six posts as a care assistant for families. But one opening, from the very beginning, stuck with me:

“We are looking for a personal assistant for our 14-year-old daughter who has severe learning difficulties, with some challenging behaviors.”

As far as P’s disabilities go, this was all I had to go on. Within a week, I received a beautiful email from P’s mom, which provided all the details. P has Down syndrome, autism and ADHD. In the words of her mom, it’s “a lot of diagnoses for a girl to handle.” But after a phone interview and a trip down to meet P and her mom, I agreed to the challenge because I really thought I was prepared.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Working with and caring for P has been, at times, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve finished a shift only to start crying as soon as the door shut behind me. I’ve held back tears in public, since I’m not only dealing with P’s meltdown but also the people around us and their judgmental glares. I have come home aching, scratched and exhausted to the point where the rest of the day is wasted. Everything I felt I was prepared for in working with P, whether it was signing, personal care or dealing with meltdowns, has been a whole new learning process.

But honestly, the hardest thing about working with P has been learning to deal with and accept the attitude of the general public. We’ve had parents vacate an entire park because P wants to go on the swings. I’ve seen the looks of disgust as we sit next to P lying on the pavement. Does P notice all of this? I really hope not. But I do, and it infuriates me.

I’ve had several perfectly nice conversations with parents in the park as their children play and P sits on the swing. But they only address me. I’m more than happy to answer questions and satisfy the innocent curiosity P brings out in people. But she’s there, too. She can’t say anything to you, but she knows you’re there. And until we saw this one man the other day, no one even bothered to acknowledge her other than through a conversation about her with me.

It was a fairly usual shift. It had been raining all day, but it stopped long enough for the swings to dry off so P could swing to her heart’s content. I decided to get her home, because it was beginning to get dark. Although it was only a two-minute walk to her house, I knew that with P it would take at least 20 minutes, including all of our stops and starts.

About halfway home, P was crouching on the ground, pulling at the grass and (as always) being lovely and noisy. I could see him coming down the path, his hat tipped and waistcoat fastened with his dog trotting along freely in front of him. I smiled at him from a distance before returning my attention to P. She remained blissfully unaware. His dog came first, sniffing and circling P. And then he came by with a grin as wide as his whole face. And he smiled not just at me but P as well. Surprised by the genuine warmth he showed, I said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” he replied, “and hello to you,” looking brightly at P. He tipped his hat, smiled even wider and off he went.

This moment may seem insignificant to most, but this man’s warmth and interest in P meant so much to me, and it almost made the general ignorance we witness regarding P melt away. Despite how hard my job can be, I love it more than anything. If more people could be like him, then I know my job and the world at large would be a much brighter, more accepting place.

Is a smile and a hello to P and others like her really so much to ask? Because no matter what P’s difficulties are, she’s still just a 14-year-old girl who loves to laugh and smile. She’s really not so different at all. She doesn’t deserve to be treated as anything less than the shining light than she is.

To the man walking his dog who smiled at us — thank you. Thank you for restoring a little bit of faith within me and making me appreciate my job even more than I thought possible.

Kirsty Flynn.2-001

383
383
1
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.