'He can be an ambassador': Parents of six-year-old model with Down's syndrome on how their son is changing perceptions of children with special needs
Six-year-old child model Ryan Langston made headlines earlier this month when he appeared in childrenswear campaigns for Target and Nordstrom.
The adorable youngster, who has Down's syndrome, was hailed an inspiration by parents of other children with the same condition, while both retailers were widely praised for not
boasting of the casting or calling any special attention to it.
Now the youngster's parents have spoken for the first time about their son, and the huge public response to his modelling career.
Inspiration: Six-year-old Ryan Langston (right), pictured with his twin brother Ian, has sparked a huge public response after appearing in childrenswear ads for Target and Nordstrom
Proud: Ryan's parents, Amanda and Jim Langston have spoken for the first time about their adorable son
Amanda and Jim Langston, from Garwood, New Jersey, told
NBC Nightly News how Ryan has been capturing the hearts of casting
directors since the age of three, and adores to act up in front of the
Mrs Langston revealed: 'Ryan loves doing it, and when I say this I don't think people
understand that he knows it's his thing!
'I joke all the
time that after the shoot is over he does not want to leave, I almost
have to drag him out from wherever we are.'
Ryan's start in life was far from easy. As well as Down's syndrome, he
was born with a hole in his heart, and had open-heart surgery at just
three months old.
Model behaviour: Ryan, who has been modelling since he was three, in a recent ad for Nordstrom
Child star: Ryan (far left), is a natural in front of the camera and loves going on photo shoots, his mother says
believe that the support and guidance Ryan gets from fraternal twin
brother Ian, who does not have Down's, has contributed to his success in
a major way.
'Ian is his big brother, even though they [were born] one minute apart,'
Mrs Langston said. 'Ian is the big brother, and Ian is taking on that role,
and he has that personality. It's just who he is.'
Ryan's Target ad attracted attention from across the U.S. after another parent of a child with Down's syndrome wrote about it.
Troubled start: Ryan's early life was far from easy. As well as Down's syndrome, he was born with a hole in his heart, and had open-heart surgery at just three months old
Rick Smith, who is behind the blog Noah's Dad, described exactly why, in casting Ryan, Target sent such a positive message about Down's Syndrome.
WHAT IS DOWN'S SYNDROME
Down's syndrome, also known as Down Syndrome is named after John Langdon Down, the British physician
who first described the condition in 1866.
It is caused by a chromosomal abnormality by which a child is
born with three copies of the 21st chromosome.
Symptoms can vary dramatically, but people with Down's syndrome usually share similar facial characteristics, a lower IQ and intellectual disability – though with support, many graduate from high school and have jobs.
They also share a a higher risk
of heart defects, gastroesophageal diseases, hearing loss,
sleep apnea, thyroid problems and obesity.
It occurs in one in 733 births with a raised incidence in older parents.
Down's syndrome can be diagnosed both during pregnancy or at birth.
He wrote: 'This
wasn't a “Special Clothing For Special People” catalog. There wasn’t a
call out somewhere on the page proudly proclaiming that “Target’s proud
to feature a model with Down syndrome in this week’s ad!”… In other
words, they didn’t make a big deal out of it. I like that.'
Mr Langston echoed Mr Smith's sentiment.
fact that [Target and Nordstrom] are not making a big deal – it's
ironic,' he told NBC. 'It's a big deal because they are not making a big
though, it appears both retailers have long been using people with
disabilities in advertising campaigns since the Nineties, and neither
have ever felt need to boast of it.
are not the only ones. Last year Pampers featured a baby with Down's in
a television commercial, and Glee actress Lauren Potter, 21, is a fan
favourite for her role as Cheerio Becky.
And Ryan, it seems, is another natural, who certainly loves the attention that comes with his new-found fame.
'He looks at the Target ad and goes, 'That's me!'' Mr Langston said. On a more serious note, he continued: 'The fact
that Ryan, how he is, can enlighten people and gives his life value, he
can be an ambassador in some way, we were thrilled about that.'
His wife added: 'He's a beautiful little boy and he
does shine, he has a beautiful little light and I think that's what
people are seeing.'
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