In a world saturated with media of all forms, where can children with neurological conditions find themselves represented? 

The disability community saw Ryan Langston, a young model with Down syndrome, booked by Target for its circulars in 2011. Now, in 2013, Karrie Brown, a young model for clothing company Wet Seal who also has Down syndrome, is on the forefront of a new campaign. As steps are taken forward, this serves as a reminder that there are a ways to go before each and every child is represented.

This is where Sprout is a instrumental tool. Not only does Sprout ensure that a range of developmental conditions are represented in media, but this nonprofit organization ensures that it is the main representation. 

Sproutflix, a branch of Sprout, creates film and media that showcase the stories and work of a generally mis- and underrepresented people. Sproutflix states, “People with developmental disabilities as subjects and performers remain marginalized in the media. By creating and presenting films of artistry and intellect, we hope to reinforce accurate portrayals of people with developmental disabilities and expose the general public to important issues facing this population.”

Film topics include a bond between a brother and his sister with Angelman syndrome (“Anything is Possible“), the challenges faced by those in relationships (“Beautiful“), an athlete with Cerebral Palsy (“Heart Over Body“), and the daily life of a child with Down syndrome (“Ups Not Downs“), amongst many more. These films range from around a minute long to over an hour. Free streams of these films for individual viewing can be found on the Sproutflix website.

The Sprout Film Festival brings these films, as well as those submitted from across the world, to the public and furthers the goal of accurate representation of those with developmental conditions and enlightens the general public to important issues faced by this community, as well as creating “an enjoyable and enlightening experience that will help breakdown stereotypes, promoting a greater acceptance of differences and awareness of similarities.” Held in New York City, the Sprout Film Festival is a two-day event that boasts an audience of over 2,000 who come from all over the world to take part in the screenings and parties held in celebration of Sprout. Can’t make it to New York? The Sprout Touring Film Festival  allows many of these films to be screened at any town across the United States.

As the CNS Foundation Mapping Project is a way to “shine a light on an invisible population”, Sproutflix is “making the invisible visible.” Both visions are aligned with bringing an underrepresented population to the forefront and ensuring that all voices are heard. By highlighting the over 14 million children with neurological conditions, the Mapping Project seeks, in part to show that more funding and research needs to be poured into this field, but also to de-stigmatize children with brain conditions. For such a large population of families that care for a special-needs child, the representation of families is largely hidden. Sprout is bringing these families to the front and center- check out these stories today!