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Little boy with Down's Syndrome nicknamed 'Smiley Riley' lands work as a model

Riley Baxter is only four years old and he has already landed modelling jobs for Mothercare and the Jools Oliver Little Bird range.

He also has Down’s Syndrome. Riley’s parents Stuart and Kirsty were worried that Riley’s Down’s Syndrome would hold him back and make him the victim of bullies.

Instead they’ve been amazed by everything he’s achieved so far. His huge smile has earned him the nickname ‘Smiley Riley’ and brought joy to everyone he meets.

After it was suggested the four-year-old should model, he joined Zebedee Management and learned how to nail photoshoots. Dad Stuart said: ‘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.

‘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. ‘Now he’s modelling 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.’ After losing their first daughter, Skye, 19 weeks into the pregnancy in 2013, parents Stuart and Kirsty worried over Riley the moment he 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. Shortly after he was born, Riley was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome when nurses noticed he was floppier than other babies and had the tell-tale crease in his hand.

He initially struggled to feed, needing a nose tube to give him nutrients every four hours.

After leaving hospital Riley’s parents joined support groups and learned Makaton sign language, as when Riley grew older he remained mostly non-verbal. Stuart explained: ‘We wanted to understand what he needed if he would be non-verbal for a longer time and to be able 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 is now able to speak two-word sentences, including ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, and is able to recite the alphabet and count from one to ten on his own.

He struggled to learn how to walk due to muscle weakness, and needed 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,’ said Stuart.

‘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.’ But despite his struggles, Riley stays smiling – and his parents are blown away by his accomplishments.

‘He goes to a mainstream school, and they all love him there, whenever he goes to parties, he is always the centre of attention,’ said Stuart. ‘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.

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