Special Needs Now

#IMREADY for More Special Needs Models in 2015

Jamie Pacton's child, Liam
#IMREADY to admit I might be biased, but my kid is cute (see the photo on the right).

With his curling blonde hair, soulful green eyes, creamy skin, and broad smile, Liam's always been Gap-ad-waiting-to-happen adorable.

I've had people tell me things like, "Well, he could be a model, but..."

But he has autism. And he doesn't talk. And his eye contact is fleeting. And he's always, always in motion.

I say back: just because he's difficult to photograph, doesn't mean Liam shouldn't be seen. Just because most 6-year-olds don't flap their hands or twirl or make loud repetitive noises, doesn't mean mine should be hidden away. It's time for a change. I want to see Liam—and kids with all sorts of special needs—on TV, in magazines, and in ad campaigns because they represent the beautiful diversity of the human experience.

And I'm not the not only special needs parent who feels this way.

After the success of toddler Izzy Bradley's Target ad this past holiday season, parents of kids with special needs are still using the hashtags #IMREADY and #15in2015 to encourage retailers to feature models of all abilities. All of this has led to a dynamic conversation about the need to change the face of beauty and many people have (literally) sent a message to their favorite retailers via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets. It's a simple message under 140 characters, but an effective one:

Hey @favorite retailer! Be a part of the #15in2015 campaign: 15 retailers, 15 models with disabilities in 2015. Represent us. #IMREADY for a change!

I plan on sending a version of this message to 15 of my favorite stores, and I'm going to encourage my network of family and friends to do so as well. Although it may not seem like it will have much impact, small acts can bring great change.

So, talk to your favorite retailers and feel free to tell us about your future models in the Comments below. And tell us more about why you think the face of beauty should be changed to include people of all abilities. We see the beauty in our kids with special needs, so now it's time for the rest of the world to see it, too!

#IMREADY, are you?

Jamie Pacton lives near Lake Michigan where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons, Liam (6) and Eliot (4). Her writing has appeared in the Autism and Asperger's Digest (2011-2013), Parents, and the book collection Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Parenting Kids with Special Needs. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, Facebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter (@jamiepacton).