Six-year-old becomes successful model, despite only being able to speak through a computer

Joshua Lindley may suffer from a disability which has left him paralysed and only able to speak through a computer, but he has not let his condition hold him back.

The confident six-year-old has become a successful child model, starring in campaigns for his local health trust, and DFS.

Schoolboy Joshua was born with cerebral palsy quadriplegia and communicates with his family and friends via a special talking machine in a similar way to renowned physicist Professor Steven Hawking who suffers Motor Neurone Disease.

Model behaviour: Joshua Lindley with his vantage talker which helps him express himself

Model behaviour: Joshua Lindley with his vantage talker which helps him express himself

He also suffers severe mobility problems and spends much of his time in a wheelchair.

Joshua can understand what he is being told, but was unable to respond until his mother got him the personalised digital talking aid, complete with pictures of his friends, family, favourite foods, sports and various icons.

Since getting the machine eighteen months ago, Joshua’s confidence has soared as he is able to do things many people take for granted such as telling his mum what he wants for tea or what he wants to watch on TV.

Despite his condition, Joshua loves being the centre of attention and has carved out a successful career as a child model and has featured in catalogues, trade magazines and adverts.

His mother Joanne Kendall, 36, a housewife of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, said: 'Josh understands but he just can’t speak so he knows what he wants to say but just can’t say it.

'Going into school the frustration was evident; he understands everything but couldn’t always communicate what he wants. I want him to have a choice and make his own mind up. Even just for dinner, I’d have to go to the cupboard and point to try and give him a choice rather than just cooking something.

'I’m glad I got the machine now, it was definitely the right decision because we still don’t know if he’ll be able to speak and it’s really helped.

Big on confidence: Joshua with his mother, Joanne, step-father, David, and siblings Charlie (left) and Nicole

Big on confidence: Joshua with his mother, Joanne, step-father, David, and siblings Charlie (left) and Nicole

'It’s a smaller one than the one Steven Hawking has, it’s a bit different, it’s a vantage talker. It’s to assist with his speech so it’s never to overtake his speaking.

'We really enjoy doing anything as a family and Joshua especially loves it when we go out for walks together. Next year he’s hoping to start horse riding and he’s even on the books for a modelling agency and has already had a number of photo shoots. He’s got such a gorgeous smile.

'He’s an inspiration to me.'

Joshua had been suffering from mobility and speech problems for years before he was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy quadriplegia at the age of four and doctors warned the family there was no way to know if he would ever be able to speak.

Mum-of-three, Joanne, tried to communicate with her son through learning basic Makaton Sign Language and pointing to things around the house, but it was still difficult to understand what he wanted.

So Joanne and her partner David Brattan began researching ways to help improve Joshua’s communication, and after getting in touch with charity One Voice the family received funding for an expensive Vantage Talker machine.

Joanne said: 'I got funding for the talker through Special Education Needs Services so he was quite lucky. It would have been about 7,000 otherwise but what price can you put on giving someone a voice'

The talker has been personalised with photos of Joshua’s family and friends, meaning he can say their names with the push of a button, and can easily let people know what he wants.

Adorable smile: Joshua models with Joanne and David on the cover of a NHS information pack

Adorable smile: Joshua models with Joanne and David on the cover of a NHS information pack

When he recently greeted Princess Anne at the opening of a new Children’s Unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, Yorkshire, he had even programmed his machine especially for the occasion to tell the royal ‘It’s an honour to meet you.’

Joanne – who has two other children Charlie, 17 months, and Nicole, five months – said: 'As he’s getting older his speech isn’t developing so it was the right call because he’s becoming quite proficient in using it.

'His talker is a grid of 84 pictures and they lead you through to more pictures behind them so you can pick different things, so you press it and it gives you more options. So it will have breakfast, lunch and dinner and you press one of those and it brings up all the different options and he can build up the sentences.

'The grid is tailored to Josh so it’s all about him, there’s a picture of me, his granddad and his school friends. His talker also has a ‘please be patient button’ and a ‘this is my talker' button.

Joshua attends school with helpers, does twenty minutes of physiotherapy each day, attends twice weekly speech and physiotherapy sessions plus lessons on how to use his talker.

Latest work: Joshua appears in DFS' latest catalogue

Latest work: Joshua appears in DFS' latest catalogue, he has been modelling for years but has become more confident since he got the Vantage talker

But, despite the extra demands on his time, the bubbly youngster has embarked on a successful career as a child model, featuring in numerous campaigns over the past few years.

Joanne said: 'It was a way of helping him to do something a bit different and as he’s got older he can’t do things like play football with his friends but he can do this.

'It’s unusual and he can sit on a sofa and just be himself.

'He did bits and bobs when he was little, modelling clothes and things.

'He’s done catalogue work, clothes modelling, been on a space hopper in space hopper in a trade magazine, and his most recent one was for DFS.

'He just loves the attention, that’s why we do so much for the hospital to give him that centre of attention.'

Law firm Irwin Mitchell have been advising the family in relation to them securing the necessary additional learning resources for Joshua.

Suzanne Monroe, Partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: 'It is important that a bright little boy such as Josh has access to all the appropriate communication aids, equipment and therapies to ensure that he is able to communicate effectively to maximise his learning potential.'