Images and language reveal super abilities

00:24, Mar 24 2014
Evie Amore Callander
EVIE'S LEGACY: Evie Amore Callander’s parents, Rachel and Sam Callander of Timaru are behind the Super Power Baby Project.

Sam and Rachel Callander were thrown into "a world of chaos" on March 30, 2008 - the day Evie Amore Callander was born.

It was a world of big, scary words.

It was a world they did not understand. Doctors told the Timaru couple their daughter - their first child - would never walk or talk.

Evie was born with a rare chromosomal disorder - partial trisomy 9q and monosomy 6p.

Doctors said she might not live very long. They said she would have developmental delays. They said she would not thrive.

It was tough, naturally, but over time the couple invented a new language. They started to talk about Evie's "super powers" as a way of describing her uniqueness.


"Instead of focusing on all the things she couldn't do, we used a language that celebrated who she was and all the things she could do," says Rachel.

Evie's super powers included a gorgeous giggle, the bravery and strength of the toughest hero, the ability to draw people to her like a magnet, mischievousness and daring.

"We didn't use words like disability, abnormality, retardation, because they were not acceptable in describing Evie and who she was."

Evie died in 2010 but her legacy lives on in the Super Power Baby Project.

Rachel, a photographer, has been travelling the North and South Islands photographing other children with a varied range of syndrome and genetic conditions.

All going well, a book containing the photographs and descriptions of the children's super powers will be released in the middle of this year.

Rachel says Evie brought out a depth of love in people that was "beyond imagination. She was just an incredible human who taught us so much about unconditional love".

"She couldn't talk but she could communicate with us through her giggles and her body.

"When she laughed, she used her whole body," Rachel says.

"These children need to be celebrated. Their superpowers are really important and they need to be shown to the world."


Aidan Walshe's smile is so warm it melts hearts.

The "spunky" Christchurch boy is the youngest of four siblings and has taught them - and his parents - a lot in his 5 years.

Aidan was born with Down syndrome and his mother, Vanessa Walshe, 42, says he always "gives more than he takes".

That is a pretty special power.

"He's got such a wicked sense of humour and he's just the best cuddler in the whole wide world.

"He's just out there to enjoy life.

"He shows people the fun side of things. I think that's his whole philosophy."

Aidan, spectacled and charming, was photographed by Rachel as part of her Super Power Baby Project a couple of weeks ago.

Vanessa heard about the project through word of mouth.

"It's about normalising the kids really . . . and just letting people know that they are still people even if they may look a bit different or seem a bit different," she says.

Her son has "a helluva lot of personality" and "can do everything anybody else can".

Sometimes it takes him a bit longer but he gets there in the end.

"We realise with him how hard just normal everyday things are for kids to achieve. The small milestones are such big achievements," she says.

"I think [having Aidan] makes us much better people.

"We're much more accepting of everything that is different."


Ruben Stewart is cool, calm and collected in any situation.

That is pretty impressive for a 1 -year-old.

Put the Greymouth toddler in a room full of 100 people and he will cope just fine.

"You can take him anywhere.

"Not every kid can do that," says his mother, Katrina Stewart.

Ruben, who was born with partial trisomy 9q - a rare chromosome abnormality, has super powers.

He was born with a club foot, which means he can't walk "but by God he tries".

"He can crawl. He can climb.

"He can do some cool stuff."

Katrina, 37, says she has struggled to talk to people about her son's condition - until now.

Ruben was photographed for the Super Power Baby Project in his backyard last week, holding two yellow maracas - his favourite toys.

"There is no-one locally who understands what I am going through, [but] the book has made me want to talk to people," she says.

"[Ruben] is different but not much different. He's still a kid."


One of Kaiden Farmer's best super powers is his ability to teach patience.

Kaiden was 2 before he learnt to sit up by himself.

He was 4 when he started crawling.

Now 7, he gives the "most uplifting cuddles".

His mother, Bianca Farmer, says he faces adversity head on every day.

"We talk about inchstones not milestones. Inchstone by inchstone, he gets there.

"He's a pretty determined young man," she says.

Kaiden was born with a rare chromosome deficiency - "He's the only one in New Zealand" - and he is unique for other reasons too.

"He has just got the most gorgeous cheeky smile and the most infectious laugh."

Bianca, 41, says meeting Rachel and Sam Callander - the couple behind the Super Power Baby Project - was like meeting old friends.

Rachel photographed Kaiden on their deck in Nelson as part of her "wonderful" project two weeks ago.

Bianca hopes the book, once published, will be shown to other parents "at first diagnosis" - to give them their own language to use.

"In the medical profession it is all quite depressing stuff and they do have horrible words for things.

"It really does medicalise your child rather than humanise them," she says.

"It has its ups and downs. We talk about the positive things [Kaiden] brings to our lives. It's is a journey - that's for sure."

The Press