Browse all articles Parent Info By Kat Abianac / March 27, 2015 Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Australia, you’ve heard of the Baby Bonds contest with their annual parade of smiling, cheeky babies and kids. And if you go on social media or watch TV, you’re also aware that in the last two years, a total of 4 winning children have had Down syndrome. Today the hotly contested 2015 Bonds winners were announced. And two beautiful girls in the people’s choice categories also feature an extra chromosome. image via Bonds website Why such a high number, when in the age demographic they only represent 1 in 7-800 of the general Australian population? Over and over, in mothers’ groups and forum comments, you hear, “It’s SUCH a popularity contest!” ‘I’d never exploit MY child like that’. “Why do kids with Down syndrome win? It’s because people always sympathy vote for kids with a disability.” Let me present to you the OTHER side of the coin. This is my son Parker, and he has Down syndrome. He doesn’t need a sympathy vote from anywhere, don’t worry! He’s doing just fine. And my family is doing awesome. Prefer a wide range of statistics, over one parent’s experience? Check out this NY Times article about family dynamics.What if my family wasn’t doing fine? Well that’s OK too! But we still wouldn’t want your sympathy. Just some understanding, and awareness of the issues we face. Yet in our society, children with Down syndrome are frequently typecast and generalized in an unspoken way as ‘inequal to’, or ‘less than’ other children- in spite of simply being different. Happily, also in our society, when you have a child with a disability you hold on our lap or at your fingertips a device that will instantly connect you with thousands, or even millions, of other parents. Parents with a child who have the exact same condition. Within these communities we create, we know the importance of normalizing disabilities and diagnoses in the public eye. ‘My excitement at seeing my little girl win her category was just as sweet as seeing two of her little friends alongside in the shortlist. To have three little girls with ‘designer genes’ represent the Down syndrome community this year was beyond amazing. As a parent of a child with additional needs all I want is for people to ‘see’ my child, really see HER, not her diagnosis, it is just a part of her, it doesn’t define her or what she can do. Josee is a a gorgeous and vivacious little girl who has taught us so much in her short time here on Earth, I am so glad that she is changing minds and hearts around Australia too! Thanks for voting everyone! And a special mention to Olympia and Stevie too, designer genes rock!’ – Joelle Kelly, mother to 2015 Baby Bonds winner Josee Hope. Campaigns like #15in2015 are created, to help change the face of beauty and encourage mainstream retailers to feature children in their campaigns who have had a diagnosis. Children like Parker have awareness pages, helping share information with other parents and followers about achievements all over the world- moments we, as a community, celebrate and are proud of. A child managing to wean from a nasal gastric tube deserves, and gets, just as large a fanfare as a man with Down syndrome opening his own restaurant. Families and friends of kids with Down syndrome and other disabilities LOVE seeing beautiful faces like Josee and Olympia grace catalogues and ads. And whether you choose to accept it or not- so do people OUTSIDE of the Down syndrome community. It’s not sympathy. It’s knowing how to find beauty, however unexpected. And these two little girls are breathtaking in real life. I’ve met Josee many times, and she is captivating. But do you know what I love even more than seeing these two on the front page of the Bonds website? When I stumble across a familiar little face by mistake. A face I have never met, but instantly recognize. Sweet almond eyes look up to me from the pages of a parenting magazine, a brochure, in a waiting room while I am at yet another appointment with my own almond-eyed child. Parents like me love it when they find a child like theirs in mainstream media. Put there with no fanfare, no fuss. Just simply included. This is why children with Down syndrome win the Bonds Baby competition. Their parents enter them at a higher rate than other parents of typical children do. They hope one day they too get to look up and see a child like theirs on a billboard. Or, look down in their K-mart or Big W store catalogue and see an ad for nappies, soap, toys complete with an extra-smiley little grin. They browse hoping one day they will see a product photo on a company’s website, during one of the purchases they make for products their children, too, consume regularly. So they choose their best photos, enter their beautiful children, and continue to raise awareness in their communities online and give interviews to their local paper or magazine. They discuss what it actually means to have a child with a diagnosis. And they hope that, by putting themselves and their children in a spotlight, however small… One day, they will no longer have to.