17/05/2018 07:03 BST | Updated 17/05/2018 11:21 BST

What The Parents Of The Kids In River Island's New Inclusive Campaign Want You To Know

'ADHD, Asperger's, Disabled: Our kids are not defined by these labels.'

Parents whose kids have taken part in an inclusive modelling campaign want others to know their children are not defined by the labels put on them.

River Island’s ‘RI Kids Squad: Be Incredible’ campaign is intended to stand out from other kid’s clothing adverts by championing diversity and features the slogan ‘labels are for clothes’.

Karlie Batey, said she was so proud when her 10-year-old son River, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD when he was seven, was chosen to star in the campaign.

“The message ‘labels are for clothes’, couldn’t be more pertinent to River and our desire to change people’s perception of additional/special needs,” she said. “We knew that River would face challenges that other children his age may not. What we weren’t prepared for, was the negative connotation attached to children with ASD and ADHD and the pre-conceived - sometimes ignorant - labels placed upon them.”

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River Batey's mum says he 'is not to be labelled and stuck in a box to conform with societal expectations'.

Batey said she has brought her son River up knowing that Asperger’s and ADHD does not define him. “He is not to be labelled and stuck in a box to conform with societal expectations,” she said. “We are all human and in clothing terms, one size does not fit all. What does define River, is his compassion, his warmth and his unconditional positive regard for others.

“Our uniqueness and quirks should be celebrated, not excused or hidden away.”

Josie Cartridge customer director of River Island explained she hopes the campaign will help lead to more inclusive representation of children in advertising: “We aim to lead by example and hope promoting diversity and inclusivity will encourage discussions around disability to help achieve wider acceptance for all children,” she said. 

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All the children in the River Island campaign.

Laura Shilton was overjoyed to learn her daughter Emily, who has a walking aid, had been given the opportunity to be part of an inclusive campaign. “As a mother to a child with disabilities all I have ever wanted is for Emily to have the same opportunities and experiences as any of her peers,” she said. “I want people to see Emily instead of her disability and am so incredibly proud of my daughter.”

Shilton said she hopes Emily becomes a role model for other children with disabilities, and they are able to look at the campaign and feel inspired, “children can do anything that they put their mind to and Emily is proof in the pudding”.

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10-year-old Emily. 

For six-year-old Maisy, who has recently had eye surgery, being part of the campaign has boosted her confidence. “This opportunity came at just the right time for Maisy, after a hard start to the year when she had last-minute surgery to reposition her implanted lens in her eyes,” said mum Leanne Spencer. “It has given her a huge confidence boost and helped her feel more confident with her glasses and different coloured eyes.”

Maisy has more surgery coming up soon and her mum feels that modelling in this campaign will encourage her to feel confident throughout this. “For us as parents seeing Maisy be a part of such a diverse and inspiring group makes us so proud and hopefully now the fashion industry will follow this path in including children and adults with disabilities in their campaigns,” Spencer added. 

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Maisy, sitting on the 'I', wearing her glasses.
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Six-year-old Maisy. 
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