The #IAMchallengingbehaviour campaign started, as I imagine many do, with a group of people; family members and professionals, ranting on social media about the injustice people with learning disabilities face in our society. The initial idea from Sam Sly who works as a consultant at Enough is Enough Time4Change and Nic Crosby of Gather Build Work was to produce badges stating ‘I have challenging behaviour’ to demonstrate that all of us have behaviours that could be labelled ‘challenging’ for example anger, frustration, and even violence at times, however because we are valued in our society it is called what it is, and we are not given a label that stays with us until we die like people with learning disabilities. During our social media rant, it was Professor Chris Hatton who came up with the ingenious use of ‘I AM’ instead of ‘I have’, put before the words ‘challenging behaviour’ thereby turning the meaning into a statement of purpose and resolve; I AM challenging behaviour.
The movement has been called a ‘quiet revolution’ in that it is not one where we picket institutions or wave placards however through the commitment to joining the campaign and the wearing of a simple small black and white badge you are signing up to standing alongside our friends, and family members with learning disabilities who have been unjustly labelled with ‘challenging the behaviour’ to challenge the real behaviour that prevents people getting the great lives they deserve which is the behaviour of people and professionals who think they know best when they really don’t. Anyone can request an I AM challenging behaviour badge or any number for their teams and they do. We have currently distributed over 5000.
People who have requested badges have told us wearing them helps feel part of a positive movement for change and helps give the courage to speak out, when before they may have been afraid to. Badges are being worn across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as across the World in the U.S, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and Europe. People with learning disabilities, their family carers, professionals, MPs and Media activists are proudly wearing their badges to every type of events. Badges are starting conversations and debate and in doing so making people think and spreading the word.
The campaign has purposefully been set up to develop and grow as it’s members come up with new ideas. One of the main tenets, understandably, has been about language and challenging the use of language that disempowers, segregates, congregates and dehumanises people as well as keeping people with learning disabilities in the weird world of ‘serviceland’ where bad things happen and real life doesn’t.
People have worked on challenging language and a fair few organisations have developed ‘say it like it is’ bingo for meetings and events so that people can bring to attention the ‘serviceland’ nonsensical language that is used.
Another idea that the campaign is championing and is capturing stories to inspire others and celebrating the people who are quietly getting on with challenging professionals and systems is the Gold Badge Awards. People can nominate anyone they wish for a Gold badge if they feel they have been doing things to get people great lives and in doing so have had to fight the system. It has been heart-warming to hear about the inspirational people, family members and professionals that are working tirelessly for a better life for people. All the stories are put on our Facebook page and Twitter as quickly as we can.
We have been asked to write articles in magazines and recently presented at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists conference in Belfast to Occupational Therapists working with people with learning disabilities and were told ‘it was truly inspirational hearing about your amazing work in spreading the message of I AM challenging behaviour and what we can do to deliver your messages. It is such a powerful message and will make such a difference to so many people’s lives’.
We are just about to run two limited addition badges based on the suggestions of two campaign members so look on the Facebook page for more information. We are always open to ideas and suggestions for new things to do and we love the interactive nature of the campaign.
The campaign is run totally on donations, and badges are sent out via stamped addressed envelopes and as such is kept going by people as passionate about changing things for the better for their friends with learning disabilities and their families as Nic and I are sat in our two front rooms in Devon writing out awards, twitting and Facebooking and posting out badges!
Sam Sly & Nic Crosby