‘Do Say Hello’

Actor and author Mia Armstrong on the importance of inclusion and belonging

January 21, 2024

Child actor and author Mia Armstrong at the 2024 LibLearnX conference in Baltimore
Child actor and author Mia Armstrong at the American Library Association's 2024 LibLearnX conference in Baltimore on January 21. Photo: EPNAC

Why was it important for young actor, model, voice artist, and author Mia Armstrong to write her debut children’s picture book?

“I wanted to inspire people with or without disabilities,” said Armstrong, who wrote the book about her experience as a person with Down syndrome. 

Armstrong, alongside her mother Cara, discussed I Am A Masterpiece! (Random House Books for Young Readers, January) and the importance of belonging during their January 21 featured speaker session at the American Library Association’s 2024 LibLearnX conference in Baltimore.

Beyond telling her story, Armstrong said she hopes her book helps readers with disabilities see themselves represented and teaches others—like their peers, family members, and the wider community—what disabilities are.

The response to the book so far has been overwhelming with positivity, Cara said. “We’ve been flooded on our social media sites with parents just commenting that they needed a tool to start this conversation,” she said. “Sometimes [parents] say ‘Don’t stare,’ or ‘Don’t look away.’ I wish that parents would maybe just say, ‘Can you say hello?’”

“Do say hello,” Armstrong said. 

“Often, [Armstrong] has to field questions in everyday life. ‘Why do you look a certain way? Why do you talk funny?’” Cara said. “I just wish kids came armed with the information to understand her journey and experience because, with that off the table, true friendship and understanding and love and compassion can occur.”

“I teach my friends to be confident, courageous, and kind,” Armstrong said. “And they’re teaching me to be fit—to be strong, confident, and courageous.”

Cara emphasized how vital it is to front-load information about disabilities when kids are young to educate them, promote engaging with people who have disabilities, and foster belonging. 

“There’s a difference between inclusion and belonging,” Cara said, sharing how she had to advocate for Armstrong to have a teacher’s aide at her elementary school. There were none when she began attending. Now, Cara said Armstrong is integrated in regular classes as well as special education classes. 

Armstrong had a message for those who are caregivers to people with disabilities. “There’s nothing to fear,” she said. “It’s actually a really beautiful thing. And don’t take it as a diagnosis. It’s a disability, but don’t take it as a disability. It’s really cool, actually. Beautiful, even.” 


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