Down syndrome, autism no barrier to ‘Master Shredder’

Emma’s a beautiful young 21-year-old who loves
music, loves to dance. Emma happens to have Down syndrome. She also happens to have a mild form of autism
laid over that, and a hearing loss. She was born with a cleft palate. So the combination of the hearing loss, the
cognitive issues, the Down syndrome and the cleft palate mean Emma’s got challenges with
speech. If Emma could read or write, everything would
be alright. But she can’t. I was working for the justice department a
number of years ago, and I was visiting homes where people with a disability lived, and
I came to this particular house the first time. A young Down syndrome girl came out and she
was calling out: ‘Mum! Mum!’ She saw me and she was most upset that wasn’t
mum. When I asked the support worker there what
this was about, she explained that the girl’s mum had died five years earlier, and
that she was still very grief stricken and traumatised. It made me realise that when I finished work
that day I was going home to my daughter. And that I needed to think way ahead and plan
for her life way beyond my death. What I strive for is for Emma to be like any
other 21-year-old. Stand alone on her own two feet. And earn her own living. When she was at school, they sometimes used
to take them to the office and do office skills. And Em wasn’t interested in anything except
using the shredding machine. I wrote letters and sent them out to businesses
– hundreds of letters. But the only response that I got was from
a lovely man called Steve Scholefield at the local credit union. The part that stood out for me was that Jo
was making a very heartfelt point that she needed to find a way for Emma to have a place
in the community and make a difference. And that she was doing everything that she
could to lead Emma down a path of being independent. Her enthusiasm with shredding, and the fact
that she couldn’t read, made her the perfect candidate for something that we also had a
need for – which was to have someone do our shredding. We were driving around in the car one afternoon,
Emma and her dad and I, and we were sort of just mucking around thinking of silly names
for the business. She had just finished watching Ninja Turtles,
and I said ‘What about Master Shredder?’ She loved it. She went ‘Yeah, yeah! That’s me, that’s me!’ So that’s how the business came about and
that’s how the name came about. To see her now, actually saying hello to people,
sharing little stories about herself on the iPad, and getting so excited about it… she
jumps up and down and says ‘It’s me! It’s me! It’s me!’ So it’s lovely to see that and it’s nice to
see her knowing the routine, wanting to go to work. It was amazing how little effort we needed
put in to be able to have such a great outcome for Emma and her family and our organisation. I just cannot speak enough about how gratifying
as a mum that is to see my daughter want to get up and go to work and feel fulfilled that
she’s doing something, that she’s helping and making a difference in her own life. Making her way, like any other 21-year-old.

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