Meet the Master Shredder

meet-emma-2I’d like you meet Master Shredder Emma.  Emma is a 21 year old woman in Australia who has Down Syndrome, autism, and hearing loss, and can neither read nor write. And yet, with some guidance from her mother, she has a very satisfying career and is interacting happily with members of the community. This has not only enriched her life, but theirs as well.

Emma’s mom, Jo, wants to share her message of hope and inspiration with families across the globe, so she reached out to me to get help with her public speaking skills. When asked why her message is so important to her, Jo told me, “Anything is possible because possibility is powerful.”

I asked Jo a few questions so that you, my readers, could learn a little more about her message:

How did you come up with the idea of Emma shredding?

I was very aware of the fact that Emma by the nature of her disabilities was devalued by society. But I also knew that if I could get/construct a role of value for her, then just by having that valued role she would in turn be valued. So I had been thinking: What can she do? How would it work? In fact, I was tying myself up in knots over it and getting nowhere. So I decided to hand it over to something much greater than myself. I took the question into meditation and I saw Emma shredding. At first I thought I had lost my focus. Then I realized this is it and in a nanosecond I saw the whole thing laid out in front of me. The fact that she couldn’t read or write was not a burden but rather a gift, because who better to shred confidential documents on your premises than someone who can’t read them?

How did you know that this would work?

The truth is I didn’t know at an intellectual level, but on another level I knew because of what I had seen in meditation. [This was not the first time she received a clear answer in meditation.] When I was 9 weeks pregnant with Emma, I sat to meditate one morning with a simple question, is this baby a girl or a boy? I then got more than I asked for.

I saw myself give birth. Someone was helping but I didn’t see their face. They turned my baby around so that I could hold her and I saw that she had Downs Syndrome. Many years ago I had a friend who had a baby with Downs Syndrome so I knew what I was seeing. But it was the incredible peace and stillness that I felt in that moment that made it clear that my baby had Downs Syndrome; it was as if the entire universe held its breath for a moment.

I have never experienced that kind of peace and stillness before or since, so I knew. I was and still am enormously grateful for the insight that I was given. That is why I knew to trust that the shredding would work.

How does Emma get new clients?meet-emma-1

These days most of her clients come from other clients recommending her. In the beginning it was difficult to get anyone to give her a go, but once we got going it was a lot easier. Emma has gained a great deal through the power of work, but she also gives back. She brings the gift of acceptance, the gift of genuineness, the gift of kindness. And she brings a reminder that we are not what we own, nor are we defined by how our bodies look and perform. She also brings the gift of inspiration.

She also has a great work ethic and is totally focused on her work. One day in one of her workplaces the CEO dropped by as Emma was working to say hello and Emma signed to her, “me work you later.” The CEO is a lovely lady and she just went back to her office and caught up with Emma later, and she made the comment to me that she wished she had a whole workforce of people with Emma’s work ethic.

How does Emma communicate?

I knew Emma was deaf when she was 3 months of age so I began to learn to sign at that point. When Emma first began to work I was confident that her signing would be sufficient, but the reality is no one can sign in any of her work sites. So I got Emma an ipad and bought a program called proloqo2go. I know, it is a mouthful, isn’t it? But it can be programmed to suit Emma’s needs, e.g. it has commands that will say “I need some help please” or “I am finished work see you next week.” It also has a file for things about Emma, e.g. food allergies, her favorite foods, her family, and it allows her to do her own shopping without assistance. It is also programmed to allow her to go for afternoon tea and order what she wants independently.

I have recently had discussions with deaf services about engaging them to come into all of Emma’s work places and provide signing in service to the staff. I am very happy to say that all of Emma’s work sites are very happy about this as they recognize that sign is her language.

What about Emma inspires you?

There are many things about Emma that inspire me: her courage to choose to come into the world at a time when perfection and success are so narrowly defined; her incredible drive to succeed and be independent in all areas of her life; her ability to almost instantly read people (she has helped me see on several occasions that people I trusted were not worthy of that trust). Emma’s incredible capacity to love unconditionally blows me away—she asks for so little and gives so much. I am a better person for Emma being in my life.

What three things would you like people to do in response to Emma?

I would like them to remember everyone is here for a reason. No life is worth more than another. As a global community we need to remember that we are all cells sharing the same petri dish. It is not possible to ignore some cells without affecting the outcome for all in the dish.


Hearing Emma’s story has deeply moved me. I hope it has you, as well. I invite you to take a few minutes to be inspired by this touching story. (It’s so good it crashed the local website twice!)

Meet Emma and her Mom

What’s your big bold dream? I’d love to hear from you.

There are 2 comments .

Marlene Kattaron

What a great reminder to never let anyone else’s opinions of you define who you are! I love Emma’s drive and will for independence. What an inspiring story of this lovely young lady!!

Reply »
Ewa —

Very touching and inspirational story. Thank you for sharing it Emma, Jo and Lisa:)

Reply »

Share Your Thoughts!

Name: Email:  
Copyright Lisa B. Marshall ©2012-2016. All Rights Reserved. Photo of Lisa B. Marshall by Joan Ford Photography.