As a special needs mom, the word “inclusion” is commonly used in education as a way to include special needs students as a part of the school so they can learn with all students despite their disabilities and participate in the classroom. Inclusivity helps the special needs student but also helps other students with awareness, being more open-minded and understanding of challenges. It helps prepare all students for the “real world”. It helps show there can be unique ways of learning but that doesn’t mean that a person with disabilities or special needs isn’t capable of learning or being able to contribute to society. Inclusivity helps the special needs child thrive academically as they are no longer secluded but around other students who help them learn and engage with the content. So much of what we learn is by observing and participating together as a group. Proponents of inclusion say that the increased social interaction is a big benefit for students of all levels and abilities.
The pandemic has allowed parents of “normal” children to understand our need and desire as special needs parents for inclusivity. The deep ache for our child to participate, to connect, to be a part of something bigger is real. Despite a more inclusive education, the rules still often don’t apply to our families. Special needs children are often left out of the social activities or extracurricular functions. As parents we struggle watching our children get less than what we feel they deserve. Just like during the pandemic when birthday parties were limited in attendance, sleep overs and play dates ended and extracurricular activities at school and camps ended temporarily, this is our normal and it is a lifelong struggle. As a mom, it can be emotionally hard to watch your child repeatedly be left out and feel isolated. We get that it is a part of the journey but that doesn’t make it easy for us.
Along with the pandemic, I recently have watched all the political divide and the word “inclusive” came to mind again. It made me reflect on how instead of segregating each other into our individual “classrooms”, we should strive to be more inclusive. We should work together like the general education and the special education teacher who have different agendas but a common outcome. They each bring a different perspective, training and each have unique strengths that complement each other to bring a more well-rounded approach to educating a special needs child. They take the time to meet, talk, reflect, and learn what would be the most effective way to help the child learn.
Inclusivity is not an easy task. It takes intention and purpose. You must set aside differences for the common good. It takes understanding that although the circumstances are not ideal, there are benefits to both sides. The benefits of inclusivity outweigh the cons. We can learn from the people who are “different” from us. My special needs daughter who is nonverbal and requires help with all daily living couldn’t be more “different” from the norm, but she has taught me so much about life and brings so many blessings to my day.
How can we be more inclusive in our life and with our family and friends? How can we better try to understand their thoughts, perspective, and life experiences so we can connect and work together towards common interests?
We all want to be understood…Can you take the time to understand someone else’s perspective?
We deserve to feel important…How can you make some else feel important or special today?
We need connection and love…What can you do today to connect with the people you care about?
We need to feel included…Are YOU being inclusive?
Change starts with you!
With Love and Gratitude,