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A young girl with cerebral palsy wondered why she didn’t see anyone like her when looking through catalogs and magazines. Instead of waiting for the media to incorporate more children with disabilities into the the publications she loved to read, the girl’s mother decided to take matters into her own hands.
Mighty reports that when Emily Prior, 8, from Perth, Australia, asked her mother Jen Prior why there were never other kids that were similar to her in the media, her mom wasn’t quite sure how to answer.
“[It] was hard to answer truthfully, as realistically, society doesn’t see disability as beautiful. While I certainly don’t leave it to the media alone to shape my daughter‘s own thoughts, self-esteem and ideas about her body image, what hope [does she have to form] a positive one when she never gets to see people like her being represented?”
Jen wanted her daughter to see others kids with disabilities represented in the media, so she connected with event and fashion photographer Stefan Gosatti and set up a professional photo shoot, featuring Emily herself. The results were phenomenal. The adorable blonde-haired girl is now involved with several major advertisers, including Australia’s Alex & Ant, Ability Centre, BettsKids, and Rock Your Baby.
According to Jen, the companies chose Emily because they recognized the importance of including and featuring all children, all of whom have their own unique abilities.
“They choose Emily not for the ‘pat on the back’ or the ‘reward’ for being diverse and ‘including’ a child with disability. They do it because they totally understand the importance of including all children, of celebrating each child’s uniqueness and their own beauty.”
Emily hopes to continue her modeling career and help spread awareness about showing more children with disabilities in the media.
In the U.S, major media outlets have been increasingly featuring children with disabilities. In 2013, two brothers graced the cover of the year-end double issue of Sports Illustrated Kids. The youngest brother, Cayden Long, has hypertonic cerebral palsy, which prevents him from walking on his own.
His older brother, Conner Long, knew how important sports were to his little brother, and although Cayden has limitations, he’s still able to participate in sports with the help of Conner. For instance, the two boys participate in swimming; Conner swims while pulling Cayden on an inflatable raft. Conner bikes while pulling Cayden on a trailer. They also competed in the Nashville Kids Triathlon, and continue to compete in fun runs.
Conner’s dedication to sports and including his little brother in activities landed the boys a highly-coveted achievement when Sports Illustrated Kids featured them on the cover. Today, the boys continue to with races, although Conner doesn’t understand why many people tout him as a hero. To him, he’s just doing what he loves to do and being able to include his brother is an added bonus. In 2012, Conner said,
“When we went out for the first race this season. Cayden [had a look on his face] like ‘I’m so happy to be back out here, I can’t believe we had to wait this long!’”
Regardless if they can see it yet or not, Cayden and Conner are an inspiration to all children with disabilities. Just like Emily, they are showing that children with disabilities can still participate in a lot of the activities they love.
Meanwhile, Conner is hoping that one day, he’ll be able to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. He doesn’t want to compete alone, however. He wants to make sure his little brother is right beside him competing in the event, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 26.2-mile marathon run, and a 112-mile bicycle ride.
The boys have their own Facebook page, “The Long Brothers,” which currently has more than 29,000 likes. They’re also the centerpiece of the book, Expect a Miracle, written by their mother, Jenny Long, which details her struggles as a teen mother and her triumphs of watching her two sons grow and accomplish things she never thought possible.