I met Emily via the infamous Instagram. I was in awe of her strength and wanted to know more about her. Like what motivates her, what moves her, what makes her proud, etc. So I asked Emily and her mom to both explain in their own words. I am proud to say Emily is a part of #TeamPrideSocks.
"My 8 year-old daughter Emily and her twin sister Reese were exceptional from the moment they arrived in the world. They were born prematurely at 29.4 weeks, weighing little more than a kilogram each and were later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral’ refers to the brain and ‘palsy’ means weakness or lack of muscle control and is a life long condition that usually affects mobility. In Emily’s case, she has a type of cerebral palsy that affects every body movement so she uses [AFOs, arm crutches and sometimes a wheelchair] to move around. Although therapy began for Emily not long after she was born, we have just incorporated it into daily life – so every day Emily strives to make herself physically stronger and more mobile. It hasn’t always been easy for her but facing challenges head on – and being encouraged by everyone who loves her - has helped to make Emily who is she is. As I have watched Emily and Reece grow up and grow into themselves as little individuals, I have come to realize that their physical characteristics are only part of what makes each of them exceptional little girls. They are both incredibly determined, resilient and generous and I couldn’t be more proud to be their mother. Emily is an ambassador for children with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities and has recently becomes a mentor for a younger girl with the same condition. Emily is very proud of her disability and wants other children to also know that having a disability shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do or what you love doing – it just means you may need to find a different way of doing it.
In Emily’s own words: “I am very proud of myself because I have a go at everything and I never stop trying. Even if it is hard for me, I still give it a go, sometimes I just need to do it in a different way to others. It is important to me that people don’t think that I can’t do something just because I have cerebral palsy. Sometimes I just need a little bit of help.” While Emily’s disability is an important part of her and it has shaped the amazing little girl that she is, she has many different dimensions to her character and would like others to recognize that: “I want people to know that there is more to me than just my disability. I am funny, I am nice, I am kind, I am a good friend and I love doing all the same things that all the other kids do.”
Emily recently noticed the lack of inclusion in advertising. I was looking through a catalogue with her when she asked “Mummy, why are none of the models in here disabled like me?” Emily had previously been featured in disability-related marketing but what she really wanted to know was why she couldn’t see any children like her in mainstream advertising. Emily has since taken on the role of “AdInclusion” Ambassador with a not-for-profit campaign, “Starting With Julius”, that promotes the equal representation of disability in advertising and the use of empowering imagery and messages. Emily’s message for marketers and brands is that it is important to to include children with disabilities in advertising because “It’s who we are”. I thought the best way to answer her question about the lack of disabled models was to get behind her and support her desire to see herself in mainstream advertising alongside and on the same basis as everyone else. I have watched Emily made strides to achieve this dream with the same determination she applied to meeting every challenge that she has faced since she was born, including learning to walk which has been 8 years in the making: “I am very proud of the fact that I have taught myself to walk, especially when my brain is telling my body not to work. This is my definitely my proudest moment in life.” I have no doubt that whatever circumstances Emily faces and whatever she ends up doing in life, she will do it exceptionally and from a place of pride, determination and commitment to make the world a better place that accepts each of us for who we are.