Poignant new film, “Language Arts,” reflects a reality for the parents of people with autism that is infrequently told

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Language Arts movie poster showing a dad with a suitcase and a mom holding her young son in her arms

Cornelia Duryée’s ‘Heartfelt and Sensitively Drawn’ film Language Arts, starring Ashley Zukerman & Sarah Shahi, takes viewers on a powerful journey of connection and redemption.

A student project abruptly forces an emotionally stunted high school English teacher to confront his demons—past and present—taking him on a powerful journey of connection and redemption in Language Arts, available now On Demand.

A poignant family drama that connects us all in the universal need to love and be loved, Language Arts is now streaming in the U.S. and Canada on Apple TV, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Spectrum, Vimeo and VUDU; and is coming soon on Google Play and YouTube.

Starring Ashley Zukerman (the upcoming Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, Fear Street, Succession, A Teacher), Sarah Shahi (the upcoming Black Adam, Sex/Life, The Rookie, Person of Interest, The L Word, Fairly Legal, Alias), Elliott Smith (Confess, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping) and Lincoln Lambert (Witch’s Castle, Modern Farmer).

Based on the novel by best-selling author Stephanie Kallos (Broken for You), Language Arts was written and directed by Cornelia Duryée (West of Redemption, The Dark Horse, Camilla Dickinson), whose youngest son—who makes a cameo appearance in the film—falls on the autism spectrum. Parenting her son has given her a unique perspective on her adaptation of the novel and her direction of the film.

Britain’s Manchester Film Festival (MANIFF) called the film a “heartfelt and sensitively drawn drama,” adding that “the story of Language Arts is touching on its own, but the treatment it receives in this adaptation elevates it into something deeply moving.

In Language Arts

High school English teacher Charles Marlow (Ashley Zukerman; Young Charles, Elliott Smith) has spent decades shrinking from life, hiding away from the disappointments that have trailed him; regretful over a profound tragedy in his past.

When one of his students, Romy (Aishe Keita), proposes a photojournalism project documenting collaborations between autistic youth and senior dementia patients, Charles tailspins into the past, confronting the mistakes of his youth and struggling to reconnect with his own autistic son, Cody (Kieran Walton) and his ex-wife, Allison (Sarah Shahi). Their marriage shattered from the stress of raising a special needs child and Charles’ inability to reveal himself.

As Charles remembers an unlikely friendship with a boy in a white suit (Lincoln Lambert as Dana), who inscribed his troubled childhood with both solace and sorrow, he is forced to confront the actions and inactions that have shaped his life. Will Charles be able to release the regrets of his past in time to be a part of his family’s future?

WATCH THE TRAILER!

Family Drama.  Not Rated (Some Mature Themes).  Run Time: 127 Minutes.

From Kairos Productions and Gravitas Ventures, Language Arts was directed by Cornelia Duryée from a screenplay by Cornelia Duryée, based on the novel by Stephanie Kallos. Director of Photography was Alisa Tyrrill. Casting by Richard Pagano. Music by BC Smith. Produced by Larry Estes, p.g.a. (Smoke Signals). Co-producer is Randy Suhr. Executive Producers are Rich Cowan and Stephanie Kallos.

About Kairos Productions:
Kairos Productions is a leading independent production company based in Seattle, Washington, that aims to enrich the world through redemptive storytelling. Kairos develops original content such as The Dark HorseWest of Redemption and Portal Runner; adapted content such as Camilla Dickinson and Language Arts; and collaborates with other production partners to create unique stories, such as JourneyQuest. For more information, visit http://www.kairos-productions.com or follow us on Facebook @kairosseattle or Twitter @KairosFilm.

About Gravitas Ventures:

Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company, is a leading all rights distributor of independent feature films and documentaries. Founded in 2006, Gravitas connects independent filmmakers and producers with distribution opportunities across the globe. Working with talented directors and producers, Gravitas Ventures has distributed thousands of films into over a hundred million homes in North America – over one billion homes worldwide. Recent releases include Queen Bees directed by Michael Lembeck; Our Friend directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel; Vanguard, directed by Stanley Tong and starring Jackie Chan; The Secret: Dare to Dream, directed by Andy Tennant and starring Katie Holmes; End of Sentence starring Logan Lerman and John Hawkes; Looks that Kill; TreadLoopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk, narrated by Bill Murray; and Colin Hanks’ All Things Must Pass. For more information, please visit https://gravitasventures.com and follow @GravitasVOD on Twitter and @gravitasventures on Instagram.

About Red Arrow Studios:
Red Arrow Studios is one of the world’s leading creators and distributors of entertainment content, comprised of an acclaimed network of international production companies and labels in seven territories; world-leading digital studio, Studio71, based in six countries; and global film and TV distributors Red Arrow Studios International and Gravitas Ventures. The group’s significant output includes scripted, non-scripted and formatted content and IP, from TV and film to short-form and branded content, made for an array of global networks and platforms. Red Arrow Studios is part of ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE, one of Europe’s leading media groups.  https://redarrowstudios.com

Meet Jonny Huntington – the man set to be the first to solo the South Pole with a significant disability

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Jonny Huntington Headshot

By Oli Ballard, Business Leader

In November 2023 Jonny will embark on a journey to the South Pole from the continental shelf of Antartica, a distance of over 900km. He is doing this alone and will become the first ever disabled person to solo the South Pole.

As part of the expedition, Jonny has put together a training timeline that starts in July 2022 across the South West Cost Path. The total distance of the coastal path is 630 miles and in total he will burn 5524 calories.

In 2014, Jonny had a brain bleed that left him paralysed from the neck down on his left side. Following extensive rehabilitation and discharge from the Army, he returned to the world of elite sport as a disabled athlete, competing for Great Britain in cross country skiing.

Jonny comments: “I’m ready to go and take on this challenge. First and foremost, I’m an athlete. My injury hasn’t changed this. It may cause me to rethink my approach, but intrinsically the challenge is the same- with the right attitude and hard work, anything is achievable.

“I’m delighted to be working together with Business Leader to have their media support.”

Business Leader is covering Jonny’s expedition and will be hosting a speaking event with him in the coming months.

Click here to read the full article on Business Leader.

Disability In Hollywood: The Road Traveled And The Road Ahead

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Hollywood Actor RJ Mitte April 2021 Issue

By Josh Wilson, Forbes

Hollywood plays a massive part in shaping our understanding of different groups and helps us gain insight into worlds and cultures we may never have been able to on our own. The movies and TV series that flood our screens are more than just entertainment; they’re education. But with great power and influence comes great responsibility as there’s always the danger of misrepresentation.

Over the years, Hollywood has faced backlash from several communities and social movements about the issue of misrepresentation and underrepresentation. Groups identifying with Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, the MeToo Movement, and protests like the OscarsSoWhite campaign come to mind.

People with disabilities, moreover racialized groups with disabilities, should also be at the forefront of this conversation, but they aren’t. This is a huge problem, especially considering that about a billion people live with some form of disability. In the U.S., one in five people have a disability, and for adults specifically, the disability count is about 26 percent, according to the CDC—roughly one in four adults.

“It’s almost impossible not to find people living with disabilities in any of these communities that feel let down by the entertainment industry’s depiction of their reality,” he said. “The discussion about proper inclusion and authentic depictions of a disabled person’s circumstances can only bode well for these groups and the entire industry as a whole.”

Disability isn’t new to the entertainment industry
Hollywood and the wider entertainment industry have many popular figures who are on the disability spectrum. Michael J. Fox has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Jim Carrey has talked about having ADHD, and Billie Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome as a child, to mention a few.

Many of Hollywood’s big names have also brought awareness to various disabilities by talking about their condition, advocating for better understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities, or donating to their cause. The industry has also taken steps to shine a light on disabilities by making movies and TV productions focused on varying disabilities, or casting lead characters as people with disabilities.

The problem here is that the bigger picture still tells a story of underrepresentation and a lack of inclusion with only 3.5 percent of series regular characters being disabled in 2020, according to GLAAD. Another study found that this number was reasonably higher in 2018—12 per cent higher in fact—but that the majority of these characters were portrayed negatively.

There have been reports over the years of actors, writers, and other workers in entertainment losing their jobs or not being considered for a position due to disability-related issues. So while some of the silver screen’s most loved names play the roles of disabled characters and win awards and recognitions, the disabled community isn’t seeing any reasonable increase in inclusion and accessibility in the industry. In fact, about 95 per cent of characters with disabilities in Hollywood’s top shows are played by able-bodied actors, and during the 2019 Oscars, only two out of the 61 nominees and 27 winners that played disabled characters were actually disabled.

This gives credence to the concern of inauthentic portrayals of any given disability or disabled person. “It has never made sense to me that disabled characters in our shows and movies are played by people who have no disability.” Musab opines, “You can’t give what you don’t have, not optimally anyway. The way I see it, it’s like getting Cameron Diaz to play Harriet Tubman. No matter how pure her intentions and commitment to deliver on the role, she simply won’t be able to do it justice. It is an indictment of the abilities of disabled artists.”

The real focus is not only on the disability of the Hollywood spectrum but on the lack of inclusivity for racialized groups within the disabled community. The stories of their lives may have been voiced on several platforms but never from the eyes of the Hollywood industry. This is an important recognition for racialized groups within the disabled community, to not only be recognized but seen through a macro spectrum of representations.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Olney Theatre reimagines ‘The Music Man’ with a deaf Harold Hill

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James Caverly plays professor Harold Hill in The Music Man at Olney Theatre Center. (Teresa Castracane Photography)

By , The Washington Post

James Caverly was working as a carpenter in Olney Theatre Center’s scene shop some seven years ago when he laid the foundation for an unconventional undertaking: a production of “The Music Man” featuring a blend of deaf and hearing actors.

At the time, the Gallaudet University alumnus was finding roles for deaf actors hard to come by. Having recently seen Deaf West’s 2015 production of “Spring Awakening” — performed on Broadway in American Sign Language and spoken English — Caverly thought the time was right for a D.C. theater to follow suit. So when Olney Artistic Director Jason Loewith encouraged staff to approach him with ideas for shows, Caverly spoke up.

“It’s like when Frankenstein’s monster came up to Dr. Frankenstein and said, ‘I need a wife,’ ” Caverly says during a recent video chat. “That was me with Jason Loewith saying, ‘Hey, I need a production.’ ” (With the exception of Loewith, all interviews for this story were conducted with the assistance of an ASL interpreter.)

The sales pitch worked: Loewith greenlighted a workshop to explore Caverly’s concept, then set the musical for the summer of 2021 before the coronavirus pandemic intervened. During the delay, Caverly’s profile spiked: He booked a recurring role on Steve Martin and Martin Short’s Hulu comedy “Only Murders in the Building,” earning widespread acclaim for a nearly silent episode focused on his morally complicated character.

Equipped with newfound cachet, Caverly has returned to Olney — this time, leaving his carpentry tools behind. Featuring deaf, hearing and hard of hearing actors, with Caverly starring as slippery con man Harold Hill, a bilingual production of “The Music Man” marches onto the theater’s main stage this week.

“What [Caverly] possesses is a presence and a charm and a charisma and a drive and a passion that is, in some way, Harold Hill,” Loewith says. “I mean, think about how he got this production to happen: He totally Harold Hilled me. But he’s a con man that I like.”

Olney’s production of “The Music Man” features a cast that mixes deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors. (Teresa Castracane Photography)

In fitting Hill fashion, Caverly won over his mark despite some initial skepticism. Although Loewith says his concerns were mostly focused on the logistics of staging what’s traditionally a sprawling show, he also recalled pressing Caverly on the idea’s artistic merits.

“I didn’t want to just do it as, ‘Here’s us being inclusive,’ ” Loewith says. “I wanted to be like, ‘What is a musical that needs this kind of storytelling?’ ”

That’s when Caverly filled in Loewith on the history of Martha’s Vineyard: In the 19th century, a genetic anomaly led to such a prominent deaf population — about 1 in 25 residents — that the island’s native sign language became ubiquitous, and deaf people were fully integrated into the community.

So what if River City, the backwater Iowa town where “The Music Man” unfolds, was like Martha’s Vineyard? Caverly, like many of his deaf peers, also learned to play an instrument in his youth — in his case, the guitar. Thus, the idea of the traveling salesman Hill swindling the locals into investing in a boys’ marching band, with the intent of skipping town before teaching them a note, held up as well.

“The beautiful thing about this story is that Harold Hill never really teaches the kids music,” Caverly says, “so he doesn’t really have to hear music and he doesn’t have to play these musical instruments.”

Click here to read the full article in The Washington Post.

Disability Inclusion Is Coming Soon to the Metaverse

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Disabled avatars from the metaverse in a wheelchair

By Christopher Reardon, PC Mag

When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.

To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.

The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.

Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.

Click here to read the full article on PC Mag.

Love Island: Tasha Ghouri becomes show’s first deaf contestant

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Love Island contestant Tasha Ghouri, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, told fellow contestants she had been completely deaf since birth

By BBC

Tasha Ghouri, from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, gathered the contestants to reveal she had been completely deaf from birth and she wore a cochlear implant in her right ear.

Calling it her “superpower”, Ms Ghouri told them: “It’s just something cool that I’ve got about myself.”

She added: “It doesn’t define me, it’s just a part of who I am.”

On the first episode of the new series, fellow Love Island contestants praised Ms Ghouri for her openness.

Indiyah Polack said: “She was so open about it and I could see in her face that was a big thing for her.

“I just honestly wanted to give her a big hug because I just wanted her to know she’s not alone and we’re all here to support her no matter what she’s going through and we all love her.”

Contestant Luca Bish, a fishmonger from Brighton, said: “Literally, I would not have had a clue, and to say it in front of a bunch of people who you’ve never kind of even met or know… credit to her.”

Hannah Tweddle, a dance teacher who taught Ms Ghouri for about 10 years, said: “She is an amazing person with a wicked sense of humour. She is very kind, very genuine. She is fabulous.”

Of Ms Ghouri’s dancing, she said: “When she was younger, we didn’t really make too many changes for her.

“She could hear enough and with very bassy music she picked up the rhythm and the sound really easily. She was good.”

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

American Sign Language Xbox Channel on Twitch Is a Game Changer for Deaf Gamers: “We Can Finally Participate”

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Guests visit the booth of XBOX during the press day at the 2019 Gamescom gaming trade fair. LUKAS SCHULZE/GETTY IMAGES)

BY Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter

“To me, accessible gaming, and accessible content in general, means that everybody should have the same experience no matter their situation.”

These words come from Sean McIntyre, whose career in entertainment has included helping to produce live events such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and serving as a producer on G4’s Attack of the Show. He’s now the accessibility lead for Xbox Marketing and distribution lead for programming and events. “They should be able to take away what the person next to them does regardless of vision, hearing or language,” McIntyre tells The Hollywood Reporter over email.

Toward one of these goals, Xbox recently partnered with Sorenson, a communications company with an expansive sign language interpreter base, to launch a dedicated channel on Twitch featuring American Sign Language interpretations, strategies and tips to help the community of Deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers actively participate in streams.

In addition to providing interpretations for approximately 25 hours of livestreams a week, the channel will include interviews with game developers, esports tournaments, event coverage, streamer takeovers and spotlights on independent games that never received captioning.

“At Xbox, we are committed to making gaming fun for the billions of people around the world that want to play and create,” Anita Mortaloni, director of accessibility at Xbox, tells THR. “This means continuing to identify barriers to play, making it easier for developers with disabilities to create and be part of the gaming community, and partnering with the disability community to bring their lived experiences into games and how they are built.”

Mortaloni got into accessibility through engineering and a particular interest in inclusive design. During the pandemic, she tells THR that she directly experienced the connection that gaming provided her family “and wanted to make that feasible for as many people as possible to do the same.” That prompted her to lead the accessibility effort at Xbox.

Such a task includes partnering with the disability community to create accessible and innovative experiences. One way that Xbox does this is through the Insiders League — anyone who self-identifies as a person with a disability, as well as allies of the community, can provide feedback directly to Xbox engineering and game development teams.

Another way is through Microsoft’s gaming accessibility testing service, where studios can seek feedback, guidance and support from members of the disability community during their development process. Xbox also offers learning resources for designing and validating the accessibility of a game, and an online course centered around the basics of gaming accessibility and best practices when it comes to hardware, software and assistive technology.

In creating the ASL channel, McIntyre explains that Xbox worked with a team of interpreters from Sorenson — gamers themselves, who understand the intricacies of gaming “lingo” and how its authenticity and accuracy is critical.

One of the features he is particularly excited about is the opportunity to dive into the archives of Xbox titles that predate when most titles started to receive captioning. “There are so many games that those who rely on interpretation have never gotten the chance to experience due to them being audio-only,” says McIntyre, “and it’s all the better that these titles are still fresh today due to so many being available via Xbox Game Pass.”

Game Pass is the brand’s subscription service, in which players can choose a certain plan and receive access to a vast number of studio and independent video game in genres ranging beyond the standard first-person shooters (DOOM Eternal) and racing titles (Forza Horizon 5) to include strategy games (Among Us) and story-driven puzzles (Unpacking), simulation (Stardew Valley), action role-playing (Death’s Door), cooperative cooking (Overcooked 2), seafaring epics (Sea of Thieves), episodic narratives (Tell Me Why), family-themed adventures (It Takes Two) all the way to a calming and charming mail delivery game called Lake.

“I’m really excited for the future and current gamers who are deaf,” Sorenson’s vp of brand marketing Ryan Commerson tells The Hollywood Reporter over Zoom, in a conversation conducted with the assistance of certified ASL interpreter Brad Holt, who serves as an exec at Sorenson. “Especially future generations, because I really know what this means. I understand the implication of something like this. This has huge implications, huge impact.”

Commerson was born into a hearing family, having only one distant cousin who is also deaf. He began learning ASL at 4 months old, with a mother who committed to teaching him and would emphasize the necessity of learning about the world directly through his eyes. “Whatever I saw, that was the information I got,” he recalls. “If it was not written down, if it was not signed to me, I didn’t know it. So, my mom would take time, put the effort in, sitting down and walking me through everything that was going on all the time so I could actually learn about human interaction, the rules of engagement, social cues, cultural norms, learn about pop culture.”

Video games were not a huge part of Commerson’s upbringing, which he partly attributes to the fact that few tools were available for him to communicate properly with other players. These days he’ll get online and play a few games with his young nieces and nephews, which he enjoys.

And he’s fully aware of the landscape: “Gaming in the ’80s and ’90s is not like gaming today,” says Commerson. Back then, he says, gamers were viewed as “weird people, social misfits maybe.” Today, he explains, it’s a way of life. “People learn social skills be playing games. They learn life lessons. They learn how money works. They learn how politics works. They learn the art of negotiating. All through gaming. Gaming is educational. And it’s a new way of educating the younger generations, babies as young as one or two years old. They pick up an iPad and start experiencing life through playing games.”

Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.

Barbie releases first-ever doll with hearing aids. 5 other groundbreaking Barbies

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barbies now wearing a hearing aid

By Ishita Srivastava, Daily O

Barbie has been an icon and inspiration for women across the world. Since its creation in 1959, Barbie has evolved from being only a doll for young girls to a global symbol of ‘anything is possible’.

The doll, however, has a long history of lacking inclusivity, in terms of race and body shape. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Lizzo have made the non-Barbie body type ‘stylish’ and as social media is evolving to become a safe space for all body types and races, Barbie has begun making changes of its own.

Here are 5 groundbreaking Barbie dolls that promote body acceptance and racial diversity:

1. HEARING AID BARBIE

On May 11, Barbie’s latest Fashionistas line was announced and it was a reason for joy for many consumers with hearing disabilities. The new collection, for the first time, features a Barbie doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids.

The new line also features a doll with a prosthetic leg and a Ken doll with vitiligo.

Mattel’s Barbie team collaborated with expert and hearing loss advocate Dr Jen Richardson in order to accurately represent the doll.

“I’m honoured to have worked with Barbie to create an accurate reflection of a doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids. As an educational audiologist with over 18 years of experience working in hearing loss advocacy, it’s inspiring to see those who experience hearing loss reflected in a doll,” said Dr Richardson.

While in 2020, Mattel did release a Barbie doll with vitiligo, this is the first time a Ken doll has been released with the skin disease. (Read more about vitiligo Barbie here: 11 fancy Barbie dolls we wish we had in the 90s. Just like the Queen Elizabeth one)

2. DISABLED BARBIE

Barbie’s 2019 Fashionistas line marked the first time Mattel released Barbie dolls with physical disabilities. Available to buy since June 2019, the new line featured a Barbie doll with a prosthetic leg and another doll with a wheelchair.

Similar to Mattel’s collaboration with Dr Richardson to create a Barbie doll with hearing aids, Mattel joined hands with 13-year-old disability activist who was born without a left forearm, Jordan Reeves in 2019 to create the Barbie doll with a prosthetic leg.

Mattel also worked with the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and wheelchair experts to design the Barbie doll with a wheelchair.

Not only the physically disabled Barbie dolls, Mattel also introduced a Barbie DreamHouse compatible ramp to promote infrastructure accessibility for the physically disabled.

3. BODY POSITIVE BARBIE

Back in January 2016, Mattel announced that Barbie will now be available to buy in three new body shapes; tall, petite and curvy, marking the first time the popularly skinny doll was available in other body types.

At the time, spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni explained that the new Barbie dolls will allow “the product line to be a better reflection of what girls see in the world around them.”

4. ASIAN BARBIE

Named Oriental Barbie, Mattel’s first Asian Barbie doll was released in 1981. The collector doll was a part of Barbie’s Dolls of the World collection.

The Oriental Barbie was released in a long yellow dress with red trimmings and a red and golden-flowered jacket. Oriental Barbie described herself as from Hong Kong. Since Oriental Barbie was the first Barbie of its kind, the face sculpt came to be known as the Oriental / Miko / Kira Face Sculpt.

While Mattel did release an Asian Barbie in 1981, it was ultimately in March 2022 when the toymaker released its first Desi Barbie. To celebrate Women’s History Month, Mattel released a South Asian Barbie who was modelled after Deepica Mutyala, the founder and CEO of makeup brand Live Tinted.

Click here to read the full article on Daily O.

Meet 2022 Gerber Baby! Isa Slish, Born with Limb Difference, Is ‘Amazing Little Girl,’ Says Mom

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2022 Gerber Baby Isa Slish

By Shafiq Najib, People

Introducing the new Gerber Baby!

On Wednesday, Gerber revealed the winner for its 2022 photo search contest as Isa Slish of Edmond, Oklahoma. The bright-eyed baby girl will serve as 2022 Gerber Spokesbaby and take on the adorable and vital role of Chief Growing Officer (CGO) on Gerber’s Executive Committee.

Isa, whom her mother, Meredith Slish, describes as a “strong, amazing little girl” via a press release, will collaborate with Gerber to help the next generation of babies grow and thrive, which includes her serving as official Chief Taste Tester to review new baby food products as well as provide “advice” to the team.

Meredith says her daughter “loves to interact with the world around her and nothing will stop her.”

“Her smile lights up the room and her laughter is irresistible,” the proud mom notes before sharing her unique experience while pregnant with Isa, born in September 2021.

2022 Gerber Baby! Isa Slish of Oklahoma, Born with Limb Differences: 'Strong, Amazing Little Girl'
CREDIT: COURTESY GERBER

“We knew Isa was special, she has shown us that every day since she came into our lives,” Meredith explains. “We found out when I was 18 weeks pregnant that Isa would be born without a femur or a fibula in her right leg.”

“We hope Isa’s story can bring more awareness for limb differences and create greater inclusion for children like her. Because, just like Isa, they too can be or do anything they want!” she says.

Isa’s favorite foods are Gerber Sweet Potato Puffs and Gerber 1st Foods Butternut Squash. Aside from spending her days babbling to her 4-year-old sister Temperance, Isa also enjoys playing with her stuffed hippo and listening to soundtracks from her favorite movies.

The original Gerber baby in the brand’s iconic logo was Ann Turner Cook. In 2010, Photo Search was launched, inspired by the “countless photos sent by parents who see their little ones in” Gerber’s logo. Isa has now followed the tiny footsteps of baby Zane Kahin who scored the Gerber Baby title in 2021.

For the first time this year, Garber will match Isa’s cash prize with a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit March of Dimes’ maternal and infant health programs.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Jo Whiley: What my disabled sister taught me about love and loyalty

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jo whiley sitting with disabled sister frances

By JO WHILEY, Express

Finally, in February 2021, the Government agreed the vulnerable should be fast-tracked, but it was too late for Frances. Following an outbreak in her Northamptonshire care home, she contracted the disease and almost died. In a touching, honest tribute to mark National Siblings Day, which raises awareness of the valuable role they play in the lives of their disabled brothers and sisters, Jo celebrates everything that Frances has given back to her.

The biggest thing I have learned from being Frances’s sister is that sharing how you feel is important
THE PHONE’S ringing again. How many times today? I’m not sure, maybe ten, maybe twenty, it’s easy to lose count. My sister, Frances, is being a pain again, and I couldn’t be happier. Every day she FaceTimes me at 30-minute intervals asking the same questions about my kids, my husband and the dogs: “Where’s Coco? Where’s Steve? Where’s Django?” Frances is 53 and has a rare chromosomal disorder called Cri du Chat syndrome, which means she has physical vulnerabilities and learning disabilities. She is loving, loud and a real live wire. No one forgets meeting Frances.

In January 2021 Frances caught Covid in her care home and was rushed to A&E. She didn’t understand why she was there and wouldn’t tolerate an oxygen mask. Her breathing deteriorated dangerously. We spent a terrifying 72 hours uncertain if she would survive.

So, now, when my sister FaceTimes to find out where everyone is, it’s a joy.

Frances is back in relatively good health. She eats more than you’d think is humanly possible and if she’s staying at Mum and Dad’s house, she’ll wait for me to arrive before getting out of bed so that I can shower her, just like I would when we were kids.

There are over half a million young people and at least 1.7 million adults in the UK with a disabled brother or sister. National Siblings Day, on Sunday, recognises the impact of that on their lives. This year’s theme is What I’ve Learned From Being A Sibling.

So, what have I learnt? I wouldn’t be who I am now without Frances. She has taught me -e g understanding, resilience, a strong sense of justice, compassion and a necessary dark sense of humour.

Being a sister is special. Being a sister to Frances has been life-changing. In a funny way, she’s even guided my career path. My earliest memory is of the two of us getting up early on Saturdays when she was small and listening to Junior Choice on the radio; her favourite song was Puff the Magic Dragon, which she still plays from an old jukebox in her bedroom.

Back then, I had a little cassette recorder, so I used to make radio shows for her. I’d record her voice and play it back to her. It was lovely, she would be so attentive. These were my first radio shows.

For a long while, I wasn’t aware there was anything different about Frances, she was just my little sister. I spent a fair amount of time with my grandparents because Mum and Dad were in hospital with Frances, but I loved that.

Click here to read the full article on Express.

Michael Kutcher On Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

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michael kutcher smiling at the camera in a black suit

By Karl Moore, Forbes

With a cerebral palsy diagnosis at the age of three, and a life-saving heart transplant after being told he had 48 hours to live at thirteen, Michael Kutcher’s life has been marked less by the obstacles he has faced, and more by the gumption he has displayed in overcoming them.

The leading motor disability today, cerebral palsy can have a wide range of effects. While dealing with limited mobility on his right side and some additional hurdles when it comes to speech, hearing, and eyesight, Kutcher was never treated differently by his family. They created a sense of unity and inclusion, challenging him to keep up with his twin brother, Chris (professionally known as Ashton), and his sister, Tausha.

“I think that’s really what gave me the driving power to overcome challenges and obstacles,” Kutcher said of his familial support system. “But I learned a lot outside of the family, interacting with different people, and unfortunately, in society, people with disabilities are looked at as being different. I dealt with those struggles, and I still deal with those struggles.”

Rather than allowing his disability to dominate the day-to-day, Kutcher made it his mission to view life as an opportunity. He began to seek out speaking engagements where he could share his story and started working with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

By educating as many people on the disability as he can and advocating for the importance of organ donations, he is opening people’s minds and encouraging others who suffer from cerebral palsy to share their stories as well.

“My goal isn’t to reach everyone,” Kutcher shared. “If I can touch one person, that’s my goal. If I touch many, that’s awesome. My goal is just to inspire and impact lives and invoke change by teaching people about the importance of organ donation. If you look at my life, I’ve done a lot in the last 30 years. I’ve been able to inspire people, I’ve been a productive member of my community, and I have children who wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the generosity of someone else.”

Kutcher has developed the mindset that everyone has a disability of one type or another, but prefers to call them “diffabilities,” a term he has trademarked. Rather than holding onto a prefix with a negative connotation, he focuses on the fact that we all have positive abilities, despite the fact that they may differ.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

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