Thursday, June 27, 2019

A little story about inclusion and children and teens with disabilities

A boy who lives down the street from us was playing basketball the other day; his family has a portable basketball hoop they keep by the curb. Max and I were taking a walk and when we passed by, he asked to play. Teilo handed him the basketball.

Max held the ball and looked up at the hoop, which was high. "Could you lower it?" I asked. Without hesitation, Teilo walked to the back of the stand, pulled a lever and lowered the hoop. Then Max took a bunch of shots. Sometimes, he'd just toss the ball up in the air it would start bouncing away and Teilo would grab it and hand it back to Max. Other times, Max would angle himself so the ball flew toward the hoop, and he got a couple of baskets.

It was pretty awesome. Max was proud of himself, as was the mom who shot this video.  

When people hear the word "inclusion" they may think of major initiatives, like including kids with disabilities in classrooms, sports, events, activities and community programs. And yes, inclusion is all of that. But inclusion also means countless everyday little ways to include our children, ones that ideally happen in a no-big-deal way.

Inclusion means saying "hi" to a kid or teen with disabilities on the playground, chatting with them at an event or roping them into a neighborhood game. It's figuring out a way to do an arts and crafts project at a camp if a child can't do it the usual way. It's lowering the music at a family get-together if it's too loud for a child with sensory needs. It's asking a parent before the barbecue if there are any particular foods a child with disabilities eats. It's...well, I could go on and on and on but really, it's roping a child or teen into life itself.

Inclusion isn't just saying yes when an accommodation is requested—it's being proactive and considerate about including a child. I can still recall the painful times I had at children's birthday parties when Max wasn't yet walking. I'd sit with him on my lap, helping him play with a toy, as the other two-year-olds zoomed by. I'd make small talk with parents, but if only one of them had sat down next to us with their child and encouraged interaction, it would have meant the world.

I can also recall this one time when a mom organized a bike race on our block and included Max. For years, Max couldn't keep up with the kids who were running or biking around. Then he got his bike and suddenly, he was on the go. I don't remember exactly how that race went down, but I do remember watching this mother gather Max and a bunch of kids at a start line, and it meant the world.

And yes, she knew Max and yes, the boy playing basketball knew Max. But that shouldn't matter. Inclusion isn't just the nice or decent thing to do, it's the human thing to do. Inclusion should be as natural and normal as opening a door for someone.

People often mean well, I know. And yet, some may think a child with intellectual or physical disabilities isn't "able" to play because he can't do it in the typical way or that it might be too challenging. Or maybe they assume a child who is nonverbal isn't up to interactions. It's best to assume competence—or at the very least, assume there is a way.

Inclusion is both an action and a state of mind.

Inclusion is all the little-but-not-little things.

Inclusion is enabling our children to belong, every single day in every single way.

1 comment:

  1. So well-put Ellen. Inclusion isn't just something in regulations, it is indeed a state-of-mind, an awareness that can make an incredible difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...