By Josh Saunders
An adorable young boy born bent in half due to a defect has defied disability to become a successful wheelchair model at eight-years-old.
Charming Colton Robinson, from New England in Massachusetts, USA, has already wheeled his way down the New York Fashion Week catwalk twice and even modelled for Tommy Hilfiger.
At birth, he was declared one of the ‘worst’ spina bifida cases that his doctor had seen, with his legs arching up towards his head and spine protruding from his back.
He underwent surgery to repair his back at less than a day old and six months later, had an operation to drain fluid from his brain caused by hydrocephalus.
To straighten his legs and feet, he has regularly been put into casts, most recently last year, but the tenacious boy has always figured ways around his disability.
He participated in NYFW and charity catwalks with Runway of Dreams, since then he has loved every opportunity to model – even at times performing wheelies on the catwalk.
Mum, Ashley, 37, an insurance financial analyst, said: “I always ask him ahead of time if he wants to do modelling jobs and 100% of the time it’s yes, he tells me he likes it because it makes him feel good about himself.
“He loves it, he has such a big personality and is very secure about himself, which is great that he doesn’t see limitations for himself.
“Colton has to overcome a lot of hurdles being a child in a wheelchair, but in this sense, he does something other children don’t have an opportunity to do, so feels really good about that.
“He was only seven-years-old when he did New York Fashion Week, to go out there on the runway in front of all these people and cameras was incredible, he rocked it and did so well.
“I had tears in my eyes, it was an amazing moment seeing him out there and so proud of himself, it took a lot for him to do that.
“He has been asked to do numerous runways from New York Fashion Week to others, we try our hardest to do everything we can.
“Then he was asked to do spring and summer shoots for the Tommy Hilfiger Runway of dreams adaptive collection last year, it was a great experience and he loved every single second of it.
“On the NYFW runway last year, they had a narrow walkway for the kids’ catwalk, it was high off the ground, other kids were scared but Colton went right around and even did a wheelie.
“People were so impressed by him and loved that he doesn’t lack confidence, he’s starting to realise he can do anything.”
Colton was recognised as having spina bifida during a 20-week ultrasound, it affects one in every 1,000 births.
The birth defect happens in the womb, causing the spine and spinal cord not to form properly.
Ashley said: “We were called into a room and told that Colton had spina bifida, at first I was completely devastated not know what would happen to my child.
“The internet is a scary place, so when you google you only hear the worst-case scenarios, I remember feeling lost and not sure what to do.”
Colton was born with a large protective bubble sticking out of his back that contained parts of his spine and spinal cord that hadn’t formed properly.
Within 24-hours, he underwent surgery to correct the area.
Ashley said: “I remember them showing us a picture and saying it was one of the worst cases they had seen in a long time.
“The way the spine was sticking out and the protection bubble on his back, it looked like a huge jellyfish because it was so large.
“We didn’t get to hold him until he was over a week old, after being born he was in NICU for two weeks, it was the hardest thing.”
After further surgery to drain fluid on the brain, he would need a series of casts on his legs to help straighten his feet.
Most recently, a cast was placed on him a year ago for ten weeks to correct his feet after they began turning outwards – making him uncomfortable and making it more difficult to use his wheelchair.
In spite of this, he’s battled to become independent and finds ways around his disabilities.
Ashley said: “When he was born his legs were hyperextended to his face, it was like he was bent in half but after surgery and a series of casts that was fixed in the first couple of years of his life.
“He’s very independent now and if he needs to grab something he will reach out of his chair to get it all by himself and doesn’t get upset about being unable to walk.
“Around the house he will crawl too, so he is not always in his wheelchair, often dragging his casts around and at school he races around in his wheelchair.”
Ashley claims her son’s modelling talent was spotted from a young age, after being picked for a fundraising photo-op for Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in 2013.
He was shortlisted to the top ten for a ‘cutest kid’ contest in a parenting magazine a year later before being asked to partake in a runway.
Ashley said: “Colton was asked to do a little runway show in Philadelphia during a hockey match, he was a little nervous at first, but it just made his face light up.
“You don’t see many kids in wheelchairs or with disabilities in magazines or TV, so I’m proud of him.”
A couple of years ago Colton quizzed his mum about why he couldn’t walk, but after having spina bifida explained he has continued to feel confident and empowered.
Ashley said: “I tell him the same thing I’ve told him since he was little that he can do anything any other child can.
“It’s amazing, I still forget when he was born, his legs were so different and how far he has come, it’s been truly a pleasure watching him grow up.
“It makes me proud that he enjoys modelling, the fact that he wants to be there is really amazing.
“He just really enjoys it, he is a bit on the young side to realise what he is showing people by being a model with a disability, but I think as he gets older he will appreciate that aspect.”