I get it. Brands may not be sure how to reach out to the special needs community. They may be afraid unintentionally stumbling, or engaging in a verbal misstep. A lot of people are.
Some kids have extra chromosomes. Some kids are missing a bit of one……or more. Some kids can’t handle tags on their clothing. Some kids cruise through the day in wheelchairs. Some kids drag oxygen bottles around with them all day. Some kids will only wear one single color and only that color. Some kids have chemo ports, trachs, g-tubes, ostomy bags……and well the list could go on and on.
It’s hard to know how to address ‘different’ sometimes.
But surely a survey or a couple of focus groups of special needs parents would make the case that kids with special needs pretty much like everything their typical peers do. It can’t be THAT hard to find a wonderful special needs Mama to be a Spokesperson for a brand to help them navigate through the world of special needs. (Should you airbrush the trach out or not?) Why, I’m not only available, I also have an adorable kid with……wait for it……special needs!
Yet, how many kids with special needs do you see in clothing ads, Nintendo ads, WalMart ads, Build a Bear ads, Welch’s Grape Juice ads. Seriously. Couldn’t you thicken that juice first? Let’s face it, if that juice tastes good thickened……it’s only gonna taste better unthickened. And seriously, do only typical kids love Happy Meals?
My dollar spends with just as much power as the dollar of a parent of a typical kid. But without the same representation. Wouldn’t we wonder what was going on if all advertising included only blonde, blue eyed kids with abnormally whitened teeth?
Where’s the brunette, the redhead, the child of color, or the one with freckles, or the curly black hair?, we’d exclaim!
When was the last time you looked at a GAP ad and wondered where the kid with Down syndrome was?
Do brands not realize the TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR OF DISCRETIONARY spending a parent of a kid with special needs lays out each year?
I’m thinking of demanding a refund from each company I’ve purchased from in the last 7 years. I mean why should I have to fork out money for their advertising costs when they don’t even think my kid and I are worth being advertised to?
Somebody, somewhere within Target’s corporation took a chance. Because TARGET’s recent glossy ad included a young man with an extra chromosome.
Oh, yes they did. And you know what? Hell didn’t freeze over. No groups of parents got together to protest the fact that a kid with Down syndrome should only be pictured in the ‘clothes for kids with special needs’ section. Companies didn’t threaten to pull their labels of f the shelves because a kid with special needs was wearing them.
Nope. That handsome young man is right next to his typical peers looking all kids of cute in the same types of clothes they are.
For that, Target just won my loyalty. Even though it’s a longer drive to get to Target than to Walmart. Even though Target is sometimes priced a bit more than my Walmart and doesn’t double coupons on Tuesday, I will make those sacrifices. It’s the least I can do to show my support to a company who isn’t afraid to show that a kid with special needs is still a kid. And each time I go through a Target register I’ll let the cashier know why I’ve chosen their store that day.
I’m hoping the voices of other parents of kids with special needs will join mine in thanking Target for stepping over the line of ‘different’, and welcoming kids with special needs into the typical world, recognizing that all kids love cool stuff.
One hell of a way to advocate, Target. Thank you for building that bridge and opening some eyes. I sincerely hope you continue to do so.
One day I imagine telling Parker that, believe it or not, there was once a time when you would hardly, if ever, see a kid with special needs in any sort of advertising. I imagine Parker will shake his head and figure that I’m telling him some kind of whopper as he goes to find my false teeth that I’ve misplaced once again.
Thank you Target. Thank you for starting what I pray becomes a huge mainstay in today’s society.
Parker and his Mama