News Article

3/14/2018

Evolving Attitudes about Disability

Gerber has been making baby food since 1927. A year after its founding, the company launched a contest to find an image of “the perfect baby” to represent its advertising campaign. The winning entry was a charcoal sketch of an adorable infant drawn by artist Dorothy Hope Smith. Forty years later, the identity of the Gerber Baby, was finally revealed. The baby was Ann Turner Cook, a neighbor of the artist, who later became an English teacher and mystery novelist. Her image has remained the company’s trademark for more than 90 years.

In 2010, Gerber originated another contest — the Gerber Baby Photo Search. Earlier this month, the company made history when it chose 18-month-old Lucas Warren, a baby with Down’s syndrome from Dalton, Georgia as its 2018 Gerber “Spokesbaby.” The choice of Lucas speaks volumes about the country’s evolving attitudes toward people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

Down syndrome was formally recognized by British physician John Langdon Down in 1866. According to the National Association of Down Syndrome, little was understood about the syndrome until 1959, “when French Pediatrician/Geneticist Professor Jerome Lejeune discovered that individuals with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome—just one year before NADS was founded. Shortly thereafter, chromosome studies were developed to confirm the diagnosis of Down syndrome.” Prior to that, most babies born with Down syndrome, then referred to by the derogatory and obsolete term, mongoloid, were institutionalized.

By the 1970s, some parents were being advised to raise their babies with Down syndrome at home. NADS helped parents to do so through their services for families and children with down syndrome. Yet, several decades would pass before people outside the Down syndrome community would gain awareness of the abilities and talents of individuals with Down syndrome.

In recent years, the world has come to recognize that having Down syndrome need not be a barrier to accomplishing just about anything. Today, people with Down syndrome are well-known actors, musicians, athletes, fashion designers and politicians — and yes — Gerber babies!

In a Feb. 7, 2018 press release, Gerber President and CEO Bill Partyka said: “Lucas’ winning smile and joyful expression won our hearts this year, and we are all thrilled to name him our 2018 Spokesbaby… Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby, and this year, Lucas is the perfect fit.”

Upon learning that her son was grand prize winner, Lucas’ mother Cortney Warren said: ““This is such a proud moment for us as parents knowing that Lucas has a platform to spread joy, not only to those he interacts with every day, but to people all over the country…We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have the potential to change the world – just like our Lucas!”

Congratulations Lucas!

Article by Betty Bell for Enabling Devices

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