Stepping Stones School was founded in 2004 for children with mild to moderate disabilities, and, after starting with just 3 students it quickly established itself as a successful alternative for those struggling to thrive in mainstream education. A victim of its own success, the demand for spaces led to the need for expansion and in 2016, with the support of the DFN Foundation, the former home of Arthur Conan Doyle was acquired and Stepping Stones School became Undershaw.
Stepping Stones operated with the belief that providing the right environment and support was key to unlocking their students’ potential and with small classes, and an individualised curriculum they managed to do just that.
This series was filmed and produced by another previous Stepping Stones student, Joe Johnson who, after travelling the world, has since established himself as a gifted filmmaker. Working with Free Bird Film, Joe showcases some of the incredible stories, talents, and achievements of these young people.
“I wanted to make these films as I feel it's really important for young people with disabilities to have the opportunity to see the multitude of directions in which they can lead their lives.
There is a homogeneous tendency in the representation of disabled people, showing one, rather limiting path. With these films, I've had the pleasure of interviewing individuals all blazing their own trail and thriving in their various fields.
I've found the experience of making these films incredibly inspirational and inspiring and I really hope they connect with others in a similar way. I hope to make more films exploring disability with the aim of breaking down barriers and challenging portrayals and representations.” – Joe Johnson
Not only has it been both informative and inspiring to watch these past students share their stories, their experiences and insights have revealed some key messages, which will undoubtedly motivate others who might be going through similar struggles.
“We can do so much more in life if we break things down into smaller chunks.” - Ollie
“Don’t let anyone tell you what to be or what not to be. Show people what you can do as a person.” - Sorcha
“A lot of people don’t really understand, they just think we’re not capable. Prove them wrong, that’s what I’m doing." - Eloise
The series has also led to some revelations about disability and how our attitude towards it can either enforce our limitations or break through them.
“It feels weird to me to talk about being disabled because I don’t feel like that.” - Ola
“I went through a phase of believing I’d never be able to work with animals. Now I’m very much a person who’d give anything a go and nine times out of ten, I can do it.” - Amie
Prepare to be inspired and to have your perception of disability challenged as these individuals follow their dreams. Watch the series here.