Last month, we introduced you to Shanon Bates, who founded Push the Limit, a program focused on spreading the message of inclusivity and social justice to as many young children and educators as possible. Shanon shared Part One of his story on how Push the Limit started, and today he shares Part Two. Read on to hear about Shanon’s ambitions and dreams for an inclusive world.
By Shanon Bates
Over the last four years, Push the limit has grown from the occasional daycare to something much more consistent. I talk to kids and educators about the topics of disability awareness, bullying, resilience, mental health and goal setting.
My ultimate goal is to lower the bullying rate for all kids in today’s society. I want these children to have friends who have disabilities so they all feel connected and part of a community.
The earlier you educate kids on disability, the more accepting they can become.
I wanted to intervene as early as possible to ensure no child went through what I went through.
So, I try to change their perception of disability. I’ll start by asking if they know what a disability is, which most don’t. Then, I’ll show them pictures of people living with different disabilities and ask questions like: Can a person in a wheelchair:
- Play basketball
- Go water skiing
- Can they go snow skiing
- Go swimming in the ocean. Just to name a few.
And I show them how a person living with a disability can all kinds of activities.
We then do some simulations together where I’ll put the children in scenarios where they get to experience what life is like for someone with a disability such as using blind folds & wheelchairs to simulate the type of impairment. They get to know the limitations of people with a disability, so they’re a bit more helpful towards someone living with a disability when they’re going through school. I find that they’re often quite responsive because it’s a physical activity.
One of the most important topics I talk about in Push the Limit is Accountability. You know, in my last article, I spoke a lot about being bullied as a child and how that severely impacted me growing up. The effects of bullying don’t just stop when you finish school; they can last a lifetime.
When I was 22, I was at the pub with some mates, and this guy walked up behind me; I didn’t even see him coming. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m sorry’ and then kept walking. When I turned to look at him, I realised it was the ringleader of the bullies from primary school. He was the guy that had caused me so much grief, and there he was, in the same bar as me.
He said sorry, but at 22, I was angry, and I felt that I wanted some kind of revenge. I was bigger and stronger, and I tried to find him and show him that the tables had turned. But when I went looking for him, I couldn’t find him. In the end, It was meant to be.
No amount of physical hurt that I can give him will ever make up for what he did to me. He has to live with what he did to me every day. So, I’m glad that I didn’t find him that night because, knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t be any better than him. And I never want to put myself in that situation or be that person to someone.
They say as you get older, you get more mature. I don’t want kids going through life and regret what they did because of peer pressure. You can say sorry, but that will never erase the things that you do to someone else. If a child takes his or her life and you were a part of that bullying process, you have to live with that forever. And that’s what my bully has to live with every day. That, in my opinion, is worse than anything I could have done to him that night.
So, that’s why accountability in my presentation is so important. It’s tough for kids to understand, but we’re changing how we’re teaching and parenting children. I was speaking to these year 6’s not that long ago, and one weekend I saw one of the young girls from the class. She was nudging her parents and pointing me out. Her mum ended up pulling me aside and chatting with me. She said that her daughter had come home and spoke so highly of my presentation, and she’d never done that about any other presentation before.
She said that I had given this young girl the confidence to go home and talk to her parents about issues that she had been having at school, a lot of which they hadn’t known about. This mum looked at me, and she told me that I had potentially saved her daughter’s life. I still get emotional now whenever I talk about it because I know how hard it must have been for that girl. I resonate back to when I was in school, and I hate to think of anyone else going through anything like that. But for me, I had the physical presence of bruises and whatnot that made my situation well known. Living in a digital age, it can be difficult to see, physically, the results of bullying.
I wish her and her daughter the very best, and I’m so glad that she had the confidence to speak up. I didn’t save her life; she saved her own because she had the confidence to say something. It was a really powerful moment. I felt that I had come full circle since I was her age in school, being pushed out of my chair & physically harmed and it became so obvious why I do what I do and why I started Push the Limit.
I honestly want to work on Push the Limit forever; I want it to become bigger than anything I could have ever imagine.