To this end we build networks of families with children with additional needs, bringing them together under the supportive umbrella of our arts based projects – life enhancing and confidence building; and hopefully giving everyone a great time.
As winners of the National Diversity Award Community Organisation for Disability it looks like we are making progress, in our Shabang! bubble at least!
However, at the heart of what we get up to at Shabang!, it can feel like being in a strong magnetic field with forces pulling one way and then another.
Whilst we celebrate difference, enjoying our little square pegs, trumpeting their unique qualities and giving space to our children to be themselves, we are also wishing the world would see them as just kids. See the child before you see their difference, lose the label, don’t judge a book by its cover, all men are equal etc.
Let’s look at the family model. When a baby is born with Down Syndrome for example, the family will go through a phase of re adjustment i.e. “this wasn’t the baby we were expecting but let’s get on with it”. A phase which can vary from a few fleeting moments to weeks, months or years.
Nevertheless in most cases, acceptance eventually comes with love. The family love the child, see them as their own person and the extra chromosome no longer dominates how the child is included in the family.
In Shabang world we aim for the same sort of acceptance – where all families value each other’s children equally. We would like to think that we have created a place where acceptance and love is the key to everything. The real trick however, is how we roll out this model into the wider world.
So how then do we help the world to love, celebrate, include and genuinely accept those with difference?
Equality laws go a long way but changing hearts is the real trick.
To be honest, we think people with an intellectual disability are too often regarded as somehow “less important”. They are seen as not having as much to give to society. There is an implication that people who are cognitively different are emotionally different too. That they don’t count in the same way. Could it be, we think that somehow they carry a lower price tag or are of less worth and consequently less human than the rest?
Are you less of a human being because your brain works differently, or slower than your typically developing peers? In the end it has to come down to a belief system wherein we are all regarded as equal. We all have an equal right to be here.
Let’s not forget that 90% of pregnancies in Europe with a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome are terminated. We have a huge fear factor to work some magic on here too.
So back to our magnetic field. How do we achieve this? Well at Shabang! we chisel away at the edges. Apart from helping families of children with additional needs feel proud, confident and proactive we also look for other ways to wave our flag at the world.
We create beautiful calendars with models with additional needs – in the hope that the more walls they hang from, the more our children will be seen as “everyday”.
We post short films on YouTube promoting understanding so that the most common myths are challenged.
We make children’s DVDs starring actors with additional needs – in the hope that the more exposure our children have in the media the more familiar they become. How we long for TV and film to embrace intellectual disability in the same way, then we really would be getting somewhere n.b. A Shabang! series on CBBC would be great, yes please!
Once we reduce the fear, achieve familiarity and improve acceptance then we must work on inclusion, integration and equality. Equality doesn’t just mean “same”. Equality involves accepting, celebrating and embracing our differences.
At Shabang! we say “Live, Love, Laugh, Learn”
We know we are only just starting to scratch the surface , but believe us – we will keep scratching!
If you would like to find out more or buy a Shabang calendar follow this link: