Jennifer Norman On Discussing Disability with Our Kids

10.18.2021 Home & Motherhood
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We sat down with the award-winning author, entrepreneur, mentor, and philanthropist, Jennifer Norman. A huge inspiration to us at THE FULLEST, Jennifer has garnered a reputation for her heartfelt and inspiring messages through her amazing inclusive beauty platforms, The Human Beauty Movement, and B Corp brand, Humanist Beauty. However, in this interview, we dove deep into her incredible childrens’ book series, SuperCaptainBraveMan, which is inspired by her son, Kyle. Like most parents, having a child gave Jennifer’s life a whole new sense of purpose but when Kyle suddenly began showing signs of chronic illness at the tender age of two, that purpose changed from raising a ‘normal,’ healthy child to fighting for her child’s life. Not one to sit on her hands, Jennifer again chose to use this opportunity to champion compassion, empathy, and kindness by creating an edu-tainment book series that teaches all kids about people with different abilities. It was an honor to learn about Jennifer’s drives, perspectives, and advice for guiding our own children to greater levels of love and understanding.

Q: You are a multifaceted woman with many accomplishments. Tell us more about your brands and how you juggle them with being a full-time mama.

I’ve come to recognize my life’s purpose as catalyzing greater love, compassion, and well-being. The brands I’ve created are an extension of that purpose. SuperCaptainBraveMan is a childrens’ picture book series I co-author and publish to help kids learn at an early age about friendship and kindness towards those with physical or neurological differences. Most of my career has been in the beauty industry, so it was natural for me to take that aspect of my work further by founding The Human Beauty Movement (The HBM), a platform that champions radical inclusivity in a way that respects wellness for all people and the planet. I then launched the Humanist Beauty skincare line last year to embody all the nutrient-rich benefits and positive core values of an ethically-made beauty brand.

Q: Tell us what inspired you to write SuperCaptainBraveman?

SuperCaptainBraveMan stories are inspired by an amazing boy named Kyle Norman, who I am blessed to call my son. When Kyle was two years old, he was diagnosed with a very rare genetic disorder. Even so, Kyle beat the odds and has continued to amaze everyone who knows him. Despite living with physical limitations and visible life support equipment, he has a profound ability to touch peoples’ hearts with his quiet strength and loving spirit. That spirit sparked the idea to help other kids learn about different abilities in a sweet and friendly way. The SuperCaptainBraveMan picture book series puts an unlikely hero — a boy in a wheelchair — at the center of each story. It’s our way of telling the world that no matter how young you are or what abilities you may have, you are a hero if you are kind.

Q: In what way do you think society has failed individuals with disabilities (and the disabled community on the whole)?

I prefer to shine a light on how society is continuously improving to regard the needs of individuals with disabilities. Now more than ever, society is adopting the mindset that there’s no such thing as normal. It’s refreshing to see greater acceptance, empathy, and support toward those who are physically or neurologically atypical. Having recently traveled abroad, I feel grateful for the American Disabilities Act, which has mandated a level of widespread accessibility in our communities and workplaces that remains unmatched in other nations. People with disabilities are now receiving more media attention than ever before. Of course, more progress can be made to release the stigma of ability differences. Which is why I’m so optimistic about the potential for SuperCaptainBraveMan in schools, libraries, and homes. Kids are never too young to learn about tolerance, acceptance, and friendship.

Q: How can people show compassion towards individuals with disabilities?

In my opinion, from a personal interaction perspective, the best thing to do is start with a smile. Many individuals with disabilities feel that they aren’t seen by others, so you’d be amazed what a warm smile and a friendly hello can do to lift a spirit. Next, go out of your way to be helpful. Offer to open a door, lend a hand, clear a path, move them to the front of the line. From a business perspective, it’s important to think about the experience a person with disabilities will have when shopping or using your product or service. Lean into accessibility, representation, and universal design.

Q: How can we share these teachings with our children?

It’s common for parents and educators to feel uncomfortable teaching kids about different abilities. When kids see someone who looks or behaves differently, they may stare, be afraid, tease, or even bully. Because children with disabilities are likely to feel shyness or loneliness, it’s a good idea to teach all children the power of a friendly smile and hello to everyone they meet. Beyond that, the SuperCaptainBraveMan books are a great way to edu-tain and bond over ability awareness with your kids.

Q: Knowing that you can’t always be there, what do you do to stay present instead of focusing on the future?

I truly feel that my life is a gift, I take nothing for granted, and I’ve learned to savor every moment for as long as I can. I feel such gratitude for the now and such optimism about the future that I don’t ever worry about what ifs or have regrets about what should have beens. Life evolves as perfectly as you believe it will.

Jennifer Norman is the author of SuperCaptainBraveMan, Founder of radically inclusive social platform, The Human Beauty Movement, and B Corp brand, Humanist Beauty. SuperCaptainBraveMan books are designed to teach young kids about diversity appreciation, disability awareness, acceptance and friendship.

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