Parents Magazine Puts First Child with Spina Bifida on Cover

cameraThis month, when you are walking past the magazine section in the grocery store, stop and take a look at Parents Magazine. The cover features an adorable little girl named Emily. This cover photo makes history. It is the first time a magazine has put a child with spina bifida on the cover.

Emily Kiecher is an adorable three year old. She has been selected as the cover model for Parent Magazine’s February 2013 edition. Emily has blond hair, a happy smile, and a pink, poofy, skirt that only a preschooler can get away with wearing in public. It matches her pink foot braces. She also has a shiny, gold, walker that she uses to get around.

Emily has spina bifida. According to the Mayo Clinic spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects that are called neural tube defects.

The neural tube is supposed to close up by the 28th day after conception. Sometimes, a portion of it doesn’t develop, or doesn’t close properly. When that happens, it can cause defects in the spinal cord and the bones in the backbone. There are three different forms of spina bifida. One is less severe, one is moderately severe, and one is very severe. The condition affects 1 in 2,500 children.

Emily’s parents are Liz and Christopher Kiecher. Liz said that she first learned that Emily had spina bifida when she went in for her 18 week exam. Her OB told her that the sonogram images showed a hole in the baby’s spine. Liz was told that her baby would have paralysis, and learning disabilities, and would require a head shunt. She was given the option to terminate the pregnancy, but chose not to.

Liz says that Emily gets around pretty well with her walker, and that her gait is good. She does have a shunt in her head, (which drains fluid from the brain). Emily doesn’t have any surface feeling from the waist down, and has low muscle tone on her left side. She is getting weekly physical therapy and speech therapy. She also receives occupational therapy, aqua therapy, and hippotherapy (which involves horses).

Although Emily isn’t aware of it, her photo is a big deal. She is the first child with spina bifida to be the cover model for a nationwide magazine. When you take a moment to think about it, it is pretty rare to see kids who have special needs pictured in magazines or even advertisements.

There have been only a few examples. Target included a child who has Down Syndrome in their mix of models for an advertisement. Toys R Us puts a child who has special needs onto the cover of each year’s Differently Abled Toy Guides.

Neither of these examples are national magazines, though. The hope is that the historic photo of Emily will open the door for more children who have special needs to be on the covers of national magazines.

Image by Elliot Bennett on Flickr