I get it. I do. I want inclusion for my son and other kids with special needs in all aspects of life. I completely agree with toy companies including kids of all needs playing in their advertisements because that is one way of showing adaptability of products. I encourage movies and tv shows that appropriately include kids and adults with special needs because everyone needs representation and to identify with film, it's one way to understand ourselves and everyone likes entertainment!
On the other hand, I'm not sure how I feel about this specific project. At the end of the day, these are advertisers who are trying to make money, and their choice will be the most beautiful and least shocking of all kids with special needs. These kids will be made up, dressed up, frosted and filtered, and altered as the objective of selling more product is the goal of all campaigns. And I'm ok with that, sort of...
At the end of the day, I could care less if anyone else thinks my kid(s) are beautiful or handsome or cute. Do I dress my kids in certain outfits or clothes in order to look cute or look nice? Of course. Do I lament when in an outfit doesn't elicit "likes" and "comments" from others? Absolutely not. Their clothes may often be conventional, but I have to like them and, now that the girls have a very strong voice, they have to like them too. My questions to the girls when they put together some wild outfit are- Do you like it? Are you comfortable? Is everything covered? That is what matters. There are times I say more about what they wear, for special occasions or nice events, but even then, it is about looking near and put together. Their looks are at the bottom of the list of what I want feedback from others on.
That is why this campaign bothers me so deeply. Rather than knowing my kids are placed in a product ad that is inherently superficial, in all cases, not just inclusion based cases, I want to know what people's perceptions are beyond that. I want people to question whether my kids try hard, use the intelligence they have, are kind, and love others. I want people to report back on how MacKenzie shared about her love of science, how Keegan shared with a friend, or how Johnny learned a new word from a friend. I want a stranger to comment on how interactive Johnny is rather than how he is a "special sweet angel". I want my friends to provide opportunities for inclusion at play dates (I have great inclusive friends by the way), for inclusion at schools to be the norm when appropriate, and for accommodations to be made to help all people who need a little extra assistance. I want a campaign that is focused on changing our schools so the needs of all kids, from the highest functioning to the lowest can get an education tailored to their level. I want my Facebook feed filled with demands for resources for classroom teachers, administrative staff, and educators and therapists that are helping kids learn livable skills. I want a hashtag that urges people to change their hearts, to be kind, understanding, and encouraging to kids and adults with special needs, rather than just being ok with how they look on the outside. I spend time telling my girls that beauty is subjective, that everyone has aspects to their physical body that is beauty, but that real worth comes from inside of them, so how can I promote a campaign that is about little more than a picture in a magazine or on a billboard? My son and my daughters are worth so much more than a photoshopped smile, regardless of their needs. This campaign speaks about changing advertising, but I see it as molding and changing the most "typical" looking kids into the societal norms that are already standard.
And really, there is nothing wrong with that. That is what modeling and advertising is, but I caution anyone who thinks they are changing anything because a kid with special needs is included in one season's print ads because of social media pressure.