Meet Shammah Kinchen, a mother, songwriter, salon owner and advocate for people with disabilities. Born in Zimbabwe, she moved to America at the age of four and has lived in Plano since 2013. She became a first-time author last November with the publication of her children’s book, “The iCANS.”
Shammah, tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to Scott for 13 years. He is ambitious, funny and a wonderful father. My 10-year old is my “Captain Overcomer,” Colin. Colin was diagnosed with autism in 2013. He is smart, hilarious, compassionate, focused and has perfect pitch. Kingston is my four-year-old adult. I call him “Unstoppable Kingston.” He has drive and so much energy. Together they pull the best out of each other.
What inspired you to write your first book, “The iCANS?”
Being around people with special needs, I started to realize they aren’t the ones who have limits. When you focus on the things that they can do, rather than what they cannot do, you see their superpowers.
The goal is to change the way the world sees special needs. The characters live in CAN Land, the land of CAN and DO. They have no limits. For example, Rocko is blind and his superpower is to look on the bright side and see with his heart. Captain Overcomer, who is Colin, has the superpower of determination. The book is filled with affirmations because I fully believe you become the things you think and say.
How do you advocate for people with disabilities?
I am the SAGE (Special and Gifted Education) chair at the Plano Council of PTAs and my son’s school, Huffman Elementary. I cannot say enough good things about the impact this school has made on my family.
I am currently working on legislation to make every public school and public park have an inclusive playground – a CAN Land, if you will. I’ve noticed that a lot of kids start to slip through the cracks as they get older. During early childhood, parents are excited and fighting for their children. But the older our kids get, the programs get less and less. I want to see that the older our kids get, the more empowered they become. They can’t have a strong start and a terrible finish.
The mantra of my life is empower, educate and elevate. Whatever I do has to fall under that umbrella. Every April I release a song for Autism Awareness Day. The first song I released was five years ago, called “I Believe,” and it features Colin. I also do interactive story times with “The iCANS” at schools, churches and even out of state. I have a jumbo book that I read from; I invite other companies like Capes for Kindness, who dress up like superheroes, to really bring the book to life for the kids.
What would you say to encourage other parents of children with a disability?
You are doing great; we don’t hear that enough. You fed them today? Check. Everybody went to bed? Check. Way to go. Knowing that you belong to God is the greatest thing in the world. It has given us as a family a good foundation for when things get difficult. Colin and Kingston do not belong to us; they have been entrusted to us to put them on the right path. So take it one day at a time.