Developing ICT skills and networks of support.
One of the many incredible outcomes from our recent adventures with Marks & Spencer is the amount of exposure the story has received. Seb has been seen by millions of people and it's got people talking. It's generated the most amazing platform to raise awareness, as well as the obvious significance of inclusion. Seeing the condition represented in such a normal way has given faith to new parents and a boost of self-esteem to young adults with Down’s syndrome.
The ad itself is part of the biggest campaign of the year for the major retailers – the battle of the Christmas ads. Prime time TV. It is what every consumer is waiting for. Not to mention the press…Millions have seen the advert, Seb’s life size image which is in 300 stores, his photo on the M&S website and in the In Store Magazine. Not to mention the acres of newspaper and magazine column inches, the tv news coverage and the online articles. Add to that the general public’s response too, you get an idea of the magnitude. It still keeps coming too… (pass me a G&T!)
I have been absolutely amazed and uplifted by the positivity. Generally with a story like this, you will get the cynics - the people who crawl out of their holes to give their two pence worth of abuse. The ones who I imagine sit at home all day in a dark room, in a string vest, trawling the web looking for vulnerable people to pick on (how’s that for a stereotype!). I haven’t seen any - it seems the nation has been swept by the story and its feel-good factor. I am not naïve or stupid enough to think there hasn’t been any, but thankfully it is so minimal I haven’t picked it up.
The only comments I have seen which could be seen as marginally negative, actually hit the nail right on the head and I would still say these remarks have not even accounted for a quarter of a percent of the thousands of responses I have seen. This is what they say: ‘Of course M&S has used this little boy, he’s cute, he doesn’t even look like he has Down’s syndrome’. DING DONG! Hello! Nail, meet head.
What DOES Down’s syndrome look like?
95% of cases of Down’s syndrome occur at conception. It is a random occurrence, where extra copy of genetic material is found on the 21st chromosome. Usually, there are 46 chromosomes in each cell of a person’s body, 23 inherited from your mum, 23 from your dad. In Seb’s case, as he has Trisomy 21, he has an extra 21st chromosome and therefore has 47 chromosomes in each cell instead of 46. Do the maths. That’s 23 from me, 23 from dad and an extra one, most probably from me (lucky boy).
So, whilst that extra material results in Seb having certain common characteristics shared with others who have Down’s syndrome, the vast majority of his traits represent his parents.
This is why I am so passionate about challenging stereotypes.
- Seb likes Chelsea (Dad)
- Seb likes The Muppets (Mum)
- Seb LOVES cake (Mum)
- Seb loves showing off (Mum)
- Seb is determined and meticulous (Dad)
- Seb likes Marmite (Mum)
- Seb enjoys success (Mum and Dad)
- Seb has big blue eyes (Mum and Dad)
- Seb has mousey, straight hair (Mum and Dad)
- Seb has wide feet (Mum and a little bit of Trisomy 21 maybe but my youngest has even wider feet!)
- Seb is very good at dancing (Mum, obviously)
- Seb, in my opinion, wears nice clothes (mostly Mum, little bit of Dad)
- Seb loses interest in a subject if it doesn’t interest him (MUM!)
- Seb is cute (Mum. Ok, maybe Dad)
- Seb has a button nose (definitely Trisomy 21! My family has a history of decent sized conks)
- Seb has up-slanting eyes (Trisomy 21)
- Seb has an element of developmental delay (Trisomy 21)
So, my point here is people with Down’s syndrome, whilst they share certain physical characteristics, are individuals. Down’s syndrome does not define them. They are more like their parents than they are to each other. Their personalities reflect their upbringing. Not the number of chromosomes that they have.
And whilst there are undoubtedly lots of people with Down’s syndrome that are good at singing and dancing, there are plenty more that are painfully shy. Just like any cross section of the population.
Yes, M&S most probably did choose Seb to be in the ad because he is cute and full of charisma (as outlined in my original post to them). In the same way that they chose all the other children in the ad because they are cute and rather brilliant at dancing.