Thursday, February 8, 2018

5 things the 2018 Gerber Baby reveals about how people view children with special needs

Lucas Warren, 18 months old, made history this month when he became the first tot with disabilities to be chosen as the Gerber Baby. Since the company was founded in 1928, parents have been sending in photos of their cutie-pies. Eight years ago, Gerber began an official photo contest for a "Spokesbaby." Lucas's mom, Cortney, posted this photo of him in a bow-tie on Instagram with the contest tag; Lucas proceeded to beat out some 140,000 other tots for the honor.

Like previous winners, Lucas will appear across Gerber's social media channels in the coming year. He's also won $50,000, and hopefully won't blow it all on apple juice and toy cars. Here's what the choice of Lucas as the new face of Gerber says about how people view children with special needs:

1. Perspectives are changing

Even ten years ago, a Gerber baby with Down syndrome might not have happened. But more people understand that children with Down syndrome and disabilities are children first, with a smile as winning as any. Gerber's choice will help further spread that message. "The world is changing," one young woman I know commented on Facebook. Yes, it is.

2. And there's a new meaning of diversity

For decades now, companies have understood that it's important to have children and adults of different races serving as the faces of their company and, more recently, people with a variety of gender identities. In recent history, Target, Nordstrom's and other big stores have included children with Down syndrome in their ads. And now Gerber has also acknowledged, in a supremely public way, that diversity includes children with disability; hopefully more companies will follow their lead. Our daughters and sons with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other disabilities deserve to be represented in ads, on TV, everywhere—same as their peers.

3. Perspectives haven't yet changed enough

Maybe someday, a baby with Down syndrome winning a cute baby contest will not make worldwide headlines. That'll actually be a good thing because no big fuss would mean it would be no big deal—as in, it would be an ordinary occurrence for tots with disabilities to be as included and celebrated as their peers without DS. Right now, though, the fact that Lucas has Down syndrome and won the contest has appeared in almost every single headline. Because yes, this is a Very Big Deal.

4. Parents of kids with Down syndrome are feeling validated

Beth Ann (beppa_1), mom to a boy with DS, summed it up best in an Instagram comment: "Mommas all over the world are crying happy tears because you have seen what we do."

5. Perfect children come in many flavors 

Since forever, the baby on Gerber food jars has been one cherubic-cheeked, cowlicked-haired tot—an iconic cuteness. Their logo likely isn't changing, but little Lucas is showing the masses another kind of perfectly adorable face. Most commenters on social media gushed about how handsome and cute he is—a new icon to adore.


  1. I was hoping you would write about this little guy
    Thank you

  2. Maybe I'm the only parent that feels this way, but I feel like when a child with disabilities is recognized, its almost always down syndrome. And I feel like it's that way because the part f the disability is skin deep and so people can automatically see it and pin point it. What about kids though that have CP, or HPE like my daughter, who almost always go unrecognized, but have real disabilities. I think it's great that down syndrome is being recognized, and that it's opening doors, but I wish there was a way to bring more recognition to all disabilities, and not just the ones that are skin deep. I guess that comes with time and progress, but just something I've felt for a while.


    1. I soo understand your complaint. My son has SOD, a neurological disorder. People look at him and see an average cute kid. They then get confused as to why he isn't walking or talking and many just assume that he's lazy when in reality his brain is malformed and is continually trying to remap the connections because he is missing his corpus callosum.

    2. I understand where you are coming from. People only seem to care about physically obvious disabilities. My son looks perfectly normal, if a bit on the small side, unless he has his mobility equipment or has his feeding tube showing.

      On the other hand, i’ve noticed a lot more ads showing people with mobility equipment other than wheelchairs lately. I love the rare occasions I can point out that the kid in the Target ad has a walker like my son’s. When he’s old enough, I’ll happily show him the son from Breaking Bad that uses arm canes like he does. Though it does bother me that two of the actors using mobility devices on TV (the son from
      Breaking Bad and the boy in a wheelchair on glee) don’t actually need the equipment.

      This year’s Gerber baby is absolutely adorable. This is one situation where I hope his cuteness is what people are looking at.

    3. Paige, I was actually thinking the same thing! I have one kiddo with autism, another with fetal alcohol syndrome, and a third with chronic illness. All of them "look" typical and people expect typical reactions, abilities, and conversations. I don't know how this will change, but as long as we continue to share our challenges and speak up, perhaps things will.

  3. A number of parents on my FB feed were wondering if it was just lip-service since Gerber baby life insurance apparently still refuses most policies (or issues ones for significantly less money)for children born with Down syndrome, even when there are no other medical complications.

    1. So it's a big risk for them to do this - to make Lucas the face of Gerber for 2018.

      And to think he will be getting less throughout his life.

      Maybe the high-risk policies are ones for things like leukaemia which people with Trisomy 21 don't normally get.

  4. I see where Paige is coming from. But I also understand that
    you have to start somewhere. I am looking forward to the day when we (i.e. society) doesn't have to put additional words to let everyone know this is a child with a disability. My parents were raised where you would often have to add to a description - the female engineer, the male nurse, the black lawyer, ... Slowly and surely we are getting rid of "the first female ..." or "the first black ...". Much of this is habit. I know my 17-year-old daughter makes sure I use the word "friend" and not girl friend or boy friend when the relationship is truly friendship. When I was growing up I had a group of friends that were girls. The same is true today - the terminology is just different.

    These are all small, but important steps for our kids, our families and society.


Thanks for sharing!

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