The reach and impact of the Super Power Baby Project continues to expand, nearly a year on from publishing the Super Power Baby Project book. Author, photographer and mother Rachel Callander has presented at two medical conferences this month - sharing the images and insights of the project with hundreds of medical professionals and students.
The strong message of the presentations, as in the book, is that all children have much to teach us about themselves and ourselves that is to be celebrated as truly exceptional. Rachel explains in her 25 minute presentation:
"The words we currently use and have been given (perhaps in part because of the medical profession) to describe 'disabilty' are: Retarded - incompatible with life - abnormal - developmentally delayed - dis-abled. In our current culture, sadly our first thoughts that come to mind when we see or meet someone who looks different to us, is ‘what's wrong?’ These words take potential and even ability away. What we associate with the word disability actually shows up the deficits in our culture that does not: accept - encourage – celebrate all humanity, no matter what it looks like. We are quick to place value judgements on a person, often before they are even born, before they have a chance to reveal their unique character, before they can enrich our own experience of life."
"These children are the ones that will push you as professionals to your absolute potential. They are the ones that will inspire cutting edge therapies and technology. These are the children that are capable of incredible transformational change in their families and communities if they are accepted for who they are and their unique abilities.
You are the ones that will travel alongside these families as they embark on a life completely different to the one they had imagined. It is hard. You will be with these families in an incredible capacity. If you can help them to see potential and development, the parents will see these things too and it will help greatly in building a positive relationship with the family. You are being leaned on heavily to provide answers to often times unanswerable questions.
The most important thing you can share with parents, from the beginning is to use strength based language to balance the many aspects of care that are hard. Children, including those with disabilities change and develop. As parents we develop as our children grow and change, as a result we can become more skilled through letting the child lead and by finding and seeing the things they do as abilities. With these children conventional milestones, growth charts and measurements and the “normal” way of doing things just are not applicable. Look at what’s working, what the kids like; and encourage parents to talk about the things that make their child unique. This will give them much needed hope, energy and perspective."
Response to this message has been resoundingly positive. The focus of consultations and assessment forms are already changing towards a more strength based approach. The Super Power Baby Project message is being heard. One of the country’s most senior and well respected neonatologists, for example, said publicly after Rachel's Perinatal Ethics Symposium presentation that her talk should be compulsory for all medical students.
Two weeks following this Rachel gave her second presentation; this time to said medical students. We received a lovely message from one of the 150 students at the Medical Education Conference of Aoteroa: "I find your ideas and approach to these amazing (very photogenic) kids incredibly inspiring and thought provoking. It’s easy to get stuck in old routines, and the Super Power Baby Project reminds us that sometimes the most efficacious approach includes much more than just diagnoses and potentially limiting labels."
A full video of Rachel's 25min presentation will be made available soon as an education tool for medical practitioners all over the world.