Pop quiz: Take a look at the cover of Parents magazine April 2014 issue. Spot anything unusual?
OK, I'll give you the answer, based on my twenty-plus years as a magazine editor: It is highly unusual for someone on a magazine cover to be looking off to the side. Typically cover subjects stare straight into the camera, the better to catch people's eyes at newsstands.
This is the first time a national mainstream magazine has featured children with autism on a cover. They're siblings, in fact: Chloe and Daniel Molina, ages 3 and 5. (You may recall that last February, Parents had three-year-old Emily Keicher, who has spina bifida, on the cover).
The issue has an excellent 24-page section Life In A Special-Needs World with a feature that explores diagnoses, special needs parenting and the results of a survey some of you participated in; profiles of kids with special needs; essays; and more. (Yep, that's Max and Sabrina in a picture from our trip to Smuggler's Notch in an article about inclusive vacations). There's an accompanying series of videos, too.
I blog for Parents and asked their photo director, Lily Alt, about the cover. "Our goal in every photograph we take is to let the child's personality come through be it sweet, energetic, active, playful, calm or mischievous," she told me. "We wanted to let Daniel and Chloe be themselves. Chloe was captivated by the antics of the crew. Our team is always behind the camera, talking to the kids, making silly faces, singing and entertaining them. Daniel was relaxed on set, but not interested in the crew's actions. He wasn't engaging in eye contact, and we thought it was important to show that reality."
Kids with special needs are increasingly cropping up in the media, particularly in ads. As I've said before, it'll be significant progress when kids with disabilities in ads or magazines are no longer a big deal since that will mean it's typical. Same goes for adults; I would so love to see models with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome integrated into Glamour, Elle and Bazaar fashion spreads. Am I dreaming? Sure I am, but it doesn't seem improbable in the way that it did years ago.
For now, I give Parents magazine props for leading the way.