'Model' children: Parents share beautiful photos of kids with special needs, disabilities
April 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM ET
Parents know that beauty comes in all different packages. Media and advertisers are starting to catch on, thanks in part to the efforts of moms who have pushed for inclusion of children with special needs and disabilities in advertising.
TODAY asked for your photos of children with special needs and disabilities, and we got too many gorgeous photos to count. These kids are superstars. Thank you for sharing these images with us; we'll continue to update this photo gallery throughout the day.
"This is my Wyatt. He was born 14 weeks early and spent the first 342 days of his life in the hospital (with me at his side the entire time). He has autism and cerebral palsy. He is nonverbal but he knows exactly how to physically communicate his needs."
Katie Harding Routzahn
"This is my sweet girl, Avery Elizabeth! She and her twin brother will be 4 in June. Avery is a beautiful, intelligent, kind, caring, and funny little girl who just happens to also have Down syndrome. Her smile can light up a room, and the world is a better place with her in it."
"Andrea has CP but that doesn't stop her. She has a great smile, she is very smart and loves to make new friends."
"This is my son Brandon, he was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and ADHD at the age of 4, he has fought hard to get to where he is today. His smile melts our hearts. He lights up a room when he walks in and we couldn't be more proud of him!"
Lalaine Villasin Frankel
"My son loves to play golf, made his middle school basketball team, plays Little League, has a great sense of humor, has lots of friends, has big dreams and goals and happens to be a kid with Down syndrome."
Natasha Jacques Nolan
"This is my daughter Piper, she is 2.5 years old she has Down Syndrome. She had open heart surgery at 4 months old to repair 3 holes in her heart. She is a bright, sassy girl who is full of personality. She loves music, dancing, puzzles, the swing, Minnie Mouse and watching Mickey Mouse clubhouse."
"Here's Dominic! 7 year old adorable kid with a big heart. Rocking his wheelchair!"
"Ricky only has one eye which really doesn't function well due to CVI. His brain did not fully develop and he has a seizure disorder. He's still such a sweet and happy boy."
"This is our sweet Teagan. His brain development was affected in utero by the lack of clean water in southern Ethiopia, where he was born. As a result, he has a chronic, bilateral hematoma, schizencephaly and cerebral palsy but he doesn't let that slow him down! He just raised $1,400 walking for clean water with his walker. He has made tremendous progress since joining our family through adoption two years ago and his smile and determination touches everyone he meets."
Alisha Bellene Huff
"JennaLeigh and her service dog, Gator. She has FPIES, EoE, diplegia cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorder. She is 4 and I thank God for the honor of being her Mom!"
"My sweet McKayla. Blessed with an extra chromosome, she is and will always be a ray of sunshine in my world."
Erika R. Shelton
"This is my son, Everett 1-1/2 years old. He was born with a rare genetic disorder causing a brain bleed and hydrocephalus. With everything that is going on in his world, he's the happiest little boy I know! I love him to pieces!"
Candace Mitchell McKenna
"This is my kind, beautiful, lively and brilliant daughter Scarlett who just so happens to be non-verbal and Autistic."
"My beautiful 13 year old with Spina Bifida...abandoned in an orphanage for 11 years before coming home."
"This is Lilly, she was born at 30 weeks and spent 49 days in the NICU. She is deaf and absolutely nothing holds her back."
"My son Tristen is 12, Autistic, and an all around fun kid. Love him to pieces."
"This is my son Oliver who just turned 2. Oliver has Down Syndrome and is an amazing little guy!"
Laci Fischer Mulick
"My amazing daughter has CLOVES Syndrome. We were told to take her home and love her but not get too attached because she was probably going to die. She's now 10 and more beautiful than should be allowed!"
"My girl Lulu, diagnosed with autism at age 3. Amazes me Daily with the way she destroys the barriers and "will nevers" set in her path."
"Meet Ella Nicole! She is 5 years old and does happen to have Down syndrome but that doesn't define her totally. Ella is smart, witty, energetic, full of love and smiles. She loves her family, friends, and continues to make new friends each day! Ella shows us the true meaning of life day in and day out. Grateful to have been blessed with her designer genes and to call her our daughter."
Jennifer W Murray
"My amazing son, Jonah busting a common myth about children with autism having no sense of humor."
Jenna Cohen Goldblatt
"This is Bryce our amazing 5 year old with Phelan McDermid Syndrome. We were told he would never walk or function in this world. He started walking right before his 4th birthday and never looked back."
"This is my 2 year old daughter Ellie! She has Beckwith-Weidemann Syndrome & had a trache until this past December. There is nothing like her smile!"
"This is my daughter who has epilepsy and primary carnitine deficiency resulting in hypotonia and other health issues. She has fought since birth but doesn't even know how remarkable she is to us. She is bright and funny and unusually concerned about others. This is a picture of her first time climbing the special ladder her daddy made so she could get into the treehouse he is building. She is my hero."
"This is my son Christopher. He is six years old. He has Autism. He loves music, dancing, trains, he is fun, loving and gives the best snuggles in the world!"
"This is my eight year old son Evan. He has Autism. He loves Marvel heroes, Legos, books, he is loving, funny, and loves his friends."
"Here is my smart, inquisitive girl, Rosie! She just turned one on Sunday. I can't wait to see what she has in store for us in the future!And, oh, yeah, she has Down syndrome!"
"This is my son Mason who contracted bacterial meningitis this past December and as a result has profound hearing loss and now has a cochlear implant and is doing amazing! This was him all dressed up for the day they activated his implant and the beginning of him learning to hear again."
Margie Ebinger Hartigan
"This is my 8 year old Kyla. She is diagnosed with Quadriplegic Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy. She is the sweetest little girl, who lights up my life. Her laugh and smile are contagious. Everyday, she teaches me and those around her to be better people."
"This is my handsome, flirtatious little man, Brydon! He has bilateral clubfeet and developmental delays in speech, cognitive areas, and behavior."
Denise Mitchell Spitzer
"My beautiful angel Samantha she has Autism. She has Rett Syndrome and Von Willbread I love her to pieces she is the second oldest of my six children. I think God everyday for her and my other children."
"This is Lincoln. He has autism. It is a daily fight that I am proud to strive for with him. He amazes me with his ability to overcome the obstacles he faces. I wish you could hear his laugh. The best sound in the world."
Wendy Marshall Carney
"This is my daughter, Olivia. She has Down syndrome, but is SO much more than a diagnosis. Anyone that knows Olivia can see that she is just like any other 6 year old. She is in a fully included Kindergarten class, participates in sports & activities, loves horses, has temper tantrums and fights with her sisters."
Angie Frazier Cannon
"This is my Noah. He has Autism and a developmental delay. He loves Lilo and Stitch (knows all 626 experiments), as well as Skylanders. Noah never meets a stranger, knows every staff by name at our Sams Club and Walmart, he is a hugger, and if you are lucky, he may even sing you a song."
"This is one of my children, he is so amazing! He is loving, caring, super funny and has the ability to make anyone feel better He happens to have Fragile-X Syndrome and Autism and a Seizure disorder, he is such a blessing."
Cassie Shea Miles
"This is Emma - she is 4 years old and has CP. Her spunk is unsurpassed - she will make her mark on this world using what she has!"
"Our son Drew, 23, ready for his ISD prom. Luckily Michigan is the only state that allows special needs kids and young adults to go to school through age 26. Drew has static non-specific encephalopathy of unknown origin, is cognitively about 3. He is non-vocal, but definitely lets you know what he wants!"
"This is my son, Joaquin. He will be 4 in June. He was born at 30 weeks gestation and has recently been diagnosed with autism, SPD, and adhd. We are very proud of our handsome boy, all that he is, and all that he will be."
"This is my son Mason. He was born 5 weeks early due to a brain hemorrhage and hydrocephalus. He has developmental delays in his fine and gross motor skills. He is learning new words everyday and loves trucks!"
"This is Bridget, five years old and beautiful. She is sweet, fun and the best hugger ever born. She was also born with an unknown neurological condition that makes it harder for her than most children. But with stubborness and determination she defies anyone who puts limits on her!"
"My cute little fireball who is 9 years old and has Down syndrome. Love that little face!"
"This is my daughter Brooklyn Mychaela Kolff and this was her prom. She will be 17 in July. She is a beautiful, athletic, kind, challenging (she is a teenager) she is developmentally challenged, with a recognized intelligence of a second grader and autistic. She is social and goes out for the summer school plays. she tries everything. I am so lucky to call her my daughter. The world looks at her as mature child and expects way more of her. when the truth is she gives the world more than we deserve with grace and understanding. She loves little kids and they think she is awesome because she plays with them at there level."
"This is our Annie. She is 3 years old and was born with Down Syndrome, trisomy 21. She is the greatest gift in our lives. She teaches us the true meaning of hard work, dedication, life, and love everyday. But most importantly she brings smiles and laughter to everyone around her. We are so lucky and blessed!"
"This is my son Micah. He is 7 yrs old and loves music and he happens to have Down syndrome."
"Here is my beautiful Ariella. She has Trisomy 47X and is on the Autism spectrum. She is 7 now. She has worked so hard at therapy since she was 4 months old. Many challenges lie ahead for her. We are so privileged to be her parents."
April Vance Whaley
"This is my daughter Rachel Whaley, age 13, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. She is very witty and a talented artist. She likes to sing and at the moment her favorite songs are Let It Go from Frozen and Invisible by Hunter Hayes."
"My 14 yr old daughter Nahomie getting ready to show her lamb "Sugar". at the Youth Fair. Nahomie has CP but CP doesn't have her."
"Our beautiful 4 year-old son, Kaden, who is on the spectrum. He never seizes to amaze us and to make us laugh daily."
"This is my 7 year old daughter, Lauren, who has Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder. So proud of her and how hard she works. She's a sweetheart and one of the most beautiful people I know!"