We Don’t Need Another Tiny Superhero. Or Do We?

posted Wednesday July 20th, 2016

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A letter landed in my e-mailbox the other day.
Hi Amy!

My name is Robyn Rosenberger and I’m the founder of  Tiny Superheros – a superhero cape company with a big mission to empower Extraordinary kids as they overcome illness or disability! (The attached 2 min video captures our mission!)

I came across your blog awhile ago, and I just love it!  We have dozens of TinySuperheroes on our Squad who are using Down Syndrome as their super power and we would love to have Super Sophie on our TinySuperheroes Squad! If you think she’d like to join our Squad, I’d be honored to send her very own, official TinySuperheroes cape!

After you receive her cape, if you think our mission is something that aligns with you, we’d love for you to consider sharing your TinySuperheroes experience on your blog. Your influence would go a long way in helping us in our mission to empower a generation of children to choose kindness! We would also love for your readers to know about our TinySuperheroes Squad, so that their Extraordinary kids can join, too!

We are also excited to to cross promote your blog to our 33,000+ social media followers as a Thank You for your support as well! Today we published a blog post about 8 of our favorite blogs written by moms of TinySuperheroes! Yours in on it, of course! http://tinysuperheroes.com/blog/some-favorite-blogs

I look forward to hearing back from you! And if we can send Super Sophie a cape, let me know her favorite colors and the best address to send it to!

Much love!

Robyn Rosenberger
TinySuperheroes, Founder

My first response, I will admit, was “Ick.” I wondered, is this inspiration porn — or just a well-meaning gesture? I’m beginning to think the line there is a lot finer than I originally surmised.

Am I too judgey? Not judgey enough?

I thought about it for a few days. (Okay, not exclusively, but you know what I mean.) I showed the email to a couple friends. They were not impressed. At 13, Sophie likes high heels, hoop earrings and boys, one friend reminded me. Isn’t this infantilizing her? What if she had a disability she was not able to overcome — would that mean she’s not super?

I watched the video (sponsored by American Express) and Robyn Rosenberger looks like a really nice, well-meaning person. I itched to want to like what she’s doing. But I couldn’t make up my mind.

 

So I decided to do what I should have done in the first place: One night after dinner, I asked Sophie.

 

“Hey Sophie, there’s this woman who wrote to me and she says you are a superhero because you have Down syndrome and she wants to send you a cape. Do you want it?”

 

“YES.” The answer came without hesitation.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Even though it’s about Down syndrome and you don’t always like to talk about that?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Huh. Well, okay. I didn’t have a chance to write to Rosenberger the next day and that night, I decided to ask Sophie again, just for the heck of it. This time, her older sister Annabelle was there. I gave her the back story.

 

“Hey Sophie, you want that cape we were talking about last night?”

 

“NO.”

 

“Really? Last night you wanted it.”

 

She shook her head.

 

“Is there something you’d want instead?”

 

“Mechanical pencils.”

 

“How about a tiara?” Annabelle asked. She was getting into it.

 

“Annabelle, no!” Sophie replied.

 

Annabelle pressed the issue. Why didn’t Sophie want a cape?

 

“I don’t want it because I won’t use it,” Sophie said. “I’ll use mechanical pencils at school.”

 

(Also she likes to eat the erasers, but I decided to stay quiet.)

 

And so it was decided. No cape for Sophie.

 

But still I wonder: Inspiration porn, or well-meaning gesture? Or both? Can’t it be both?

 

Amy’s book, “My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome,” was published by Woodbine House this spring and is available through Amazon and Changing Hands Bookstore. For information about tour dates and other events visit myheartcantevenbelieveit.com and here’s a book trailer.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

7 Responses to “We Don’t Need Another Tiny Superhero. Or Do We?”

  1. I can’t help being suspicious of people that totally “love” people with DS or other disabilities. I’m grateful for their support (we all could use it) but it feels more about them than about Katie or the other kids with DS. I just don’t get it. No one goes out of their way to say the totally “love” gifted kids, with oozing smiles–probably for good reason. We were always proud, snotty brats–geniuses but brats. Kids with DS are often stubborn, manipulative and a bit needy, but if you only spend time with them during respite care it will take several years to figure that out–and I’m hoping it takes you nearly forever because I need the respite. Don’t get me wrong…I love Katie and I am curious about other kids with DS when I see them. But I’m interested to see what the person is like so I can really get to know them as a person, not just as a person with DS. Some I don’t care for; many I do. It has almost nothing to do with their disability other than the curiosity about a shared experience. When we get around to seeing people with disabilities as people, we’ll find exactly that–a shared experience with people we may or may not like. That feels more authentic to me. The people who really deserve the capes are the parents of autistic kids–but that’s a topic for another day.

  2. Wow… I’m completely shocked at your interpretation and reaction to the TS email… Shame on you.

    For full transparency, I run marketing efforts for TS and my opinion here is my own and does not reflect that of TS or Robyn.

    So I want to address various things that ran through my mind while reading this:

    1) This was a private conversation between you and Robyn. Did you let her know you were going to put her email out on your public blog? Did you even respond??
    Does that seem ok with you?

    2) The american express video was something they did for TS for free for a project and highlighted TS. Since it was well produced, she is using it on her website now. Are you inferring she sold-out or something?

    3) She is dedicating her life to normalize children’s’ disabilities and inspire LOVE so that when they go about their life they aren’t seen as different, rather they now are a “Tiny Superhero” that other kids who also have capes can find common ground with. So this is not about highlighting a disability like DS, obviously. It’s highlighting what kids DO have in common. About understanding and accepting others who are different, and most of all, EMPOWERING children who struggle with illnesses or disabilities daily.

    4) When you purchase a cape you also become part of a community where it becomes more that just a “cape” — you compared to a “mechanical pencil” — that’s the parent’s job of explaining to their child how they can interpret empowerment.

    5) Quite frankly, I’m personally most offended by this post for 3 reasons 1) your lack of consideration of privacy to someone just reaching out to you to work together 2) There is so much you could highlight in this world that needs to be shared, and you focused your once a month post to blast her and her small business like this – did you see she highlighted you before you doing anything for her as a top mom blogger?? That’s how you respond? 3) This one really upset me…You are inferring she’s exploiting these kids’ disabilities for her own benefit.?!??… Knowing Robyn personally, this couldn’t be further from the truth. She spends hours and hours of her time emailing parent and connecting with them. Parents with children who have much more serious disabilities than DS or who have just lost a child. You didn’t even respond to her email and ask her about your concerns?? How dare you publicly assume. Sounds a bit hypocritical given you have a book out about your child’s special needs too, doesn’t it?? But I won’t be quick to assume like you were… Do some more self reflecting please…. Feel free to republish my response.

    Alex

  3. Hi Amy!

    Well, I can’t say that my heart doesn’t hurt to know that this is how you felt, but I do appreciate your feelings and will definitely keep them in mind going forward. In the 9,000+ capes we have sent, I have yet to hear from a mom who was offended by the offer. I am very sorry you felt this way.

    Truth is – TinySuperheroes has changed my life and my heart. I can’t think of a single thing I would rather do with my time in this world. The Extraordinary families I have been blessed to get to know through the past three years have taught me more than I ever could have imagined about the world, about myself, and about being a mom.

    I hope that any offense you have felt can perhaps feel a bit better after hearing from me. Certainly offending your family is the furthest from my intention, and definitely not the reason I have dedicated my life to TinySuperheroes.

    Much love to your family,

    Robyn

  4. I think it can be both, but well-meaning though some of these gestures are, that doesn’t stop them from also being perhaps misguided. I don’t know…I try not to be too judgey either, because as Patricia says above, we do need allies. At the same time, there needs to be a critical discussion of what we understand about disability in society, and sometimes these things obscure that. The thing that strikes me about the email you received is it’s contradictory message: on the one hand, DS (or disability generally) is something to be ‘overcome’, and on the other it’s a ‘super power’? That doesn’t sit right with me.

    As always, thanks for this peek into your life with Sophie – always thouoght-provoking and gives me excitement for what lies ahead with my own daughter!

  5. You brought up good questions. I have no answers. But can I just say that I loved the dialogue with your girls. I enjoyed that immensely.

  6. Thanks for asking the tough question and always looking at the other side of the coin. I don’t have any answers either, but I appreciate anyone who is willing to address the question.

    Don’t ever feel “shame” for feeling the way that you do.

  7. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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My Heart Can't Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome is available from Amazon and 
Changing Hands Bookstore
. For information about readings and other events, click here.
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