I drove by one of our town's baseball fields the other day, and Ben said "New park!" Sure enough, they'd put up a new swing set nearby, complete with a blue adaptive swing. It was a happy sight—inclusive play starts with equipment that enables all children to participate. That can open doors to the kind of inclusion that's even harder: Getting children to welcome and actively include children with disabilities. Any one of us who's dealt with stares and whispers at the playground, let alone bullying, knows that story.
Yesterday, my friend Bronte shared an award-winning short animated film, Ian, that's about inclusion. It's based on the story of a fourth grader named Ian who has cerebral palsy, and the film happened thanks to his mom, Sheila Graschinsky. The family is based in Argentina but the film has no dialogue, to make its message universal. Sheila originally wrote a book about the everyday life of families of children with disabilities, to hand out to kids who snickered at her son. Ultimately, that lead to this beautiful film.
For me, Ian was a bit painful to watch. It hit close to home in small ways (like the part where Ian struggles to maintain control holding a cup as his peers watch) and large ways, too; Max has never had that (spoiler alert) happy ending. Although Max also hasn't experienced the sadness Ian feels in the movie—he is content with his life, it is me who has ached for more social opps for him—there are many children out there who long to belong. The truth is that inclusion doesn't always come naturally or easily to children without disabilities, who may be wary of ones who don't look or act like they do.
It's always helpful to have a springboard for conversations about inclusion. So take a few minutes—Ian is just seven minutes long, followed by clips of the real-life Ian—to watch this with your child and talk about it. You could also suggest that your child's teacher show it at school to get a discussion going. If you are a teacher or education, show kids this film. You and you and you and you have the power to help make the world a more welcoming place for children of all abilities.