Raising a child with a special condition like Down syndrome comes with its own apprehensions and challenges. However, contrary to popular belief, it can actually bring a great deal of joy and happiness to the family.
Don’t believe this? Just take a look at the Baxter family from Rochester, Kent, England, and their adorable 4-year-old son with Down syndrome—Riley Baxter—who has landed a modeling job for a Mothercare advert, the Jools Oliver Little Bird.
Possessing a radiant smile and an adorable charm, little Riley Baxter, lovingly called “Smiley Riley,” easily captures the hearts of people he meets.
“We have called him ‘Smiley Riley’ from a young age, because he makes people really happy and seeing his smile gives people a pick-me-up on a bad day,” Riley’s dad, Stuart, a sales manager, told Cater News.
Even though Riley has Down syndrome, people see his smile rather than his disability, as “he enjoys everything he does and does it all with a smile.”
But this is not what Riley’s parents, Stuart and Kirsty Baxter, had imagined when he was first diagnosed with Down syndrome. The couple had previously lost their daughter, Skye, in 2013, at 19 weeks of pregnancy.
Initially, Stuart and Kirsty were daunted knowing about Riley’s Down syndrome, as any other parents would. They were worried Riley might become a victim of bullies due to his condition.
However, after joining support groups upon leaving the hospital, the first-time parents realized raising a child with Down syndrome is not an intimidating task after all, and that their worries were unfounded.
Stuart and Kirsty enjoy watching Riley—who’s mostly non-verbal—conquer his battles, learning Makaton sign language and walking.
“Now he has such a repertoire of signs it’s unbelievable, it’s to the point where other children are learning it from him,” Stuart said.
With practice, Riley can now speak “Mummy” and “Daddy,” as well as recite the alphabet from R to Z and count on his own from one to ten.
Owing to his weak muscles, Riley needed a walker until he was 3 years old.
Stuart mentioned, “With his walking, he has to work twice as hard as anyone else to do what they are doing.”
“When he walks a mile it’s like walking two for anyone else, but his determination to keep going is the one thing we constantly see,” Stuart added, alluding to his beloved son.
The capable Riley “can do everything anyone else can,” it’s just that he takes a little extra time. But this doesn’t bother his supportive parents, who have really enjoyed it.
In spite of his struggles—learning how to walk and speak—Riley always wears a beaming smile on his tiny face. The boy’s endearing smile spreads joy to the people around him.
“He goes to a mainstream school, and they all love him there, whenever he goes to parties, he is always the center of attention,” said Stuart.
Riley is simply well loved by his classmates and friends.
“At one party we turned up a bit late, there were 20 children sitting around a lady dressed as a fairy. I heard them say Riley’s name and then they all came running towards him,” Stuart recalled. “Their love for him is amazing.”
Riley is not just a star among his schoolmates. The little boy was once suggested by someone to try his hand at modeling, so he then joined Zebedee Management, where he learned how to pose for photoshoots. Unsurprisingly, Riley’s smile earned him a modeling contract with Mothercare advert in the Jools Oliver Little Bird range.
“Now he’s modeling with Zebedee, he loves the camera, you say pose and he will make this little pout followed by sticking his tongue out,” Stuart said.
Stuart and Kirsty are certainly proud of seeing Riley’s resilience, bright spirit, and the accomplishments he has achieved so far.
“After we were told he had Down Syndrome I cried, not for the case that I would love him any less but just knowing how cruel the world can be,” Stuart said. “That was the first thing that went through my mind but obviously my perceptions were wrong, and wow how wrong I was.”
“Riley is getting so much out of life and whenever he accomplishes something it seems that little bit extra special knowing how much harder he had to work for it,” he continued.
Beyond doubt, the happy and cute Riley has brought the Baxter family many joyful moments.
“We were so delighted to have him, our little boy to love and bring up,” Stuart said.
A study published on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov website has shown that the rewards and life lessons gleaned from rearing a child with Down syndrome are abundant. “The overwhelming majority of parents who have children with DS report that their outlook on life is more positive,” the study stated. “They cite life lessons in acceptance, patience, and purpose.”
Indeed, the Baxter family has proven that a child is a blessing from the heavens above, and kids with Down syndrome are no exception.
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