Four-year-old Riley's infectious smile brings joy to people around him. What's more, it's also earned him the moniker 'Smiley Riley '.
Riley Baxter is only four-years-old, but he's already managed to bag a modeling job for big brands like Mothercare and the Jools Oliver Little Bird range. Riley has Down Syndrome, and his parents Kristy and Stuart were worried he would be bullied by the other kids because of it, reports Metro. They soon realized their worry was unfounded and they've been quite amazed at what he's managed to achieve so far. Riley seems to have a really infectious smile that makes people around him happy, and it's also earned him the nickname 'Smiley Riley'. He simply brought joy to everyone he crossed paths with.
People soon began to suggest he try his hand at modeling, so he joined Zebedee Management in an attempt to learn how to pose and do professional photoshoots. "After we were told he had Down Syndrome I cried, not for the case that I would love him any less but just knowing how cruel the world can be. That was the first thing that went through my mind but obviously, my perceptions were wrong, and wow how wrong I was," said Riley's dad Stuart.
"There was the fear of the unknown and why this had happened to us, but if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been upset at all. Riley is getting so much out of life and whenever he accomplishes something it seems that little bit extra special knowing how much harder he had to work for it. We have called him ‘Smiley Riley’ from a young age because he makes people really happy and seeing his smile gives people a pick-me-up on a bad day," Stuart continued.
"Now he’s modeling with Zebedee, he loves the camera, you say pose and he will make this little pout followed by sticking his tongue out. In the photoshoots they want the children to act natural and naturally he’s a very happy little boy, so it’s brilliant. He enjoys everything he does and does it all with a smile, whenever people see him, they don’t see his disability just him smiling," added Stuart.
In 2013, Kristy and Stuart lost their first daughter Skye just 19 weeks into the pregnancy, and they were naturally worried when Riley was conceived. "Every time I went for a scan, I couldn’t look at the monitor and had to wait for Stuart to tell me it was all ok," said Kirsty. It was only after Riley was born that he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome because the nurses noticed he was a bit floppier than the other babies and he had the crease lines in his hand that was a dead giveaway.
Initially, he struggled to feed, so he needed a nose tube to be given nutrients every four hours. Kristy and Stuart joined support groups after the left the hospital. They even learned Makaton sign language because as Riley grew older, the less he would communicate. Stuart explained, "We wanted to understand what he needed if he would be non-verbal for a longer time and to be able to help him when he cried. Now he has such a repertoire of signs it’s unbelievable, it’s to the point where other children are learning it from him."
Riley has come a long way. He can now speak two-word sentences, call his parents 'mummy' and 'daddy', recite the alphabets and count from one to ten on his own. Due to his weak muscles, Riley struggled to walk a bit while growing up and needed the help of a walker until the age of three. "With his walking, he has to work twice as hard as anyone else to do what they are doing. When he walks a mile it’s like walking two for anyone else, but his determination to keep going is the one thing we constantly see," said Stuart.
Even though he's only four, Riley smiled through all of his struggles, and that amazed his parents. "He goes to a mainstream school, and they all love him there, whenever he goes to parties, he is always the center of attention. At one party we turned up a bit late, there were 20 children sitting around a lady dressed as a fairy. I heard them say Riley’s name and then they all came running towards him," said Stuart.
"Their love for him is amazing. He can do everything anyone else can, it just takes him a little longer and we have enjoyed that more. He has needed us more, so if anything, it’s meant we could give him extra love. We were so delighted to have him, our little boy to love and bring up," concluded Stuart