How Should You Picture a Kid With Disabilities? This Way.


When strangers used to ask Rachel and Sam Callander what was wrong with their daughter, the parents offered a lighthearted explanation: superpowers.

At the time, Evie Callander, who was born in 2008 with a rare chromosomal disorder, clearly experienced the world differently than other 2-year-olds. Certain sensations — the sound of electric sliding doors, for example — overwhelmed and upset her.

But that lighthearted answer — “superpowers” — turned out to be more true than her parents first realized. Because in her short, 2-year-long life, Evie exhibited a deeper, stronger, practically glowing sense of strength and love. It doesn’t get much more super than that.

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Super Power Baby Project / Rachel Callander

1001163_157163784469083_432214190_n When Evie died, her parents kept her close to them. Her pictures cover their home. They talk about her often.

“We knew we had been changed for the better because of her and people could see it too,” Rachel Callander, 33, told The Mighty. “They knew it was hard and we were really struggling. However, within all the sadness there was always a sense of pride of who she was and what she brought to the world.”

The entire experienced inspired the Callanders to celebrate other children with superpowers. They began photographing kids with disabilities in New Zealand and surveying their parents. The main question? “Tell us about your child’s superpowers.”

Portaits and quotes from 72 families now make up the “Super Power Baby Project” — an art book the Callanders hope will inspire others to look past disability.

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Super Power Baby Project / Rachel Callander
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Super Power Baby Project / Rachel Callander
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Super Power Baby Project / Rachel Callander
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Super Power Baby Project / Rachel Callander

“We want people to see humanity — to see the images and smile and say things like, ‘What a lovely child, how beautiful,'” Rachel Callander told The Mighty. “We want them to be struck by the children’s uniqueness, their innocence, their bodies, their eyes, their deepness — just as they would a stunning image of any child. We want people to see the children as their parents see them — with eyes of love.”

Sometimes, the project even helps parents see their own children in a new way. Callander says, when taking the initial survey, one participant’s mom realized she’d never talked about her child’s disability in a positive manner.

“She said she was no longer afraid to share him with the world,” Callander recalled. “We knew at that point we were onto something important.”

The book doesn’t view superpowers in a turn-yourself-invisible, fight-evil-villians, wear-a-flashy-costume sort of way. Its goal is not to trivialize a life with disability. It’s only out to celebrate and highlight strength.

“These kids really do have a deeper capacity for unconditional love, empathy, compassion, and they do bring out a deeper sense of love in people.They do promote a greater patience in others,” Callander told The Mighty. “When I think of the things the world needs right now, it’s love, patience, kindness and acceptance of others. These qualities are world changers in our opinion.”

Below, you can watch Callander’s TEDxAuxland Talk, where she further explains the project. And if you’re interested in ordering a copy of the book, head here. You can also get updates on Facebook.

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