This blog, will be easy to ‘write’. I actually wrote it after one of my trips to the annual gala held by the National Inclusion Project. I happened to click on it on my Facebook page today, so many years after I wrote it. Since the message remains the same, I decided to share it all with you….
My notes, after I returned home from the gala…with a few minimal edits.
But now the reason. Supporting the National Inclusion Project. And their cause. Inclusion for ALL. Imagine. Why do we live in a world where we even need to fight for it? Senator Tom Harkin once said to me that wasn’t it sad we HAD to fight for it. It is.
Inclusion is a RIGHT not a privilege.
Let me say it again. Inclusion is a right. NOT a privilege.
Who decided so long ago that we have to be ‘normal’ to fit in…and who got to define that term anyhow? Who gave anyone the right to make us feel like our children are somehow ‘defective’ and have to EARN their way into the world?
From the beginning, I never doubted that Jamie belonged and I would fight anyone and everyone to get him included. How does he learn, how do the other kids learn, even how do the adults learn if he and others are secluded? What are we teaching then…that it is okay to do that? Way back when he started school, they wanted to start with what I call ‘token’ integration. No, I won’t use the word inclusion for it. Token integration..putting them in to art or lunch with the ‘regular’ kids…. whoopee…lookie at us..see what we did to make US feel better.
Inclusion is NOT dumping our children into class with the others. It takes work, and support and modifications. When all of that is in place, then it is quite successful!
Before Jamie went into first grade, I went to talk to the kids to show them he was more like them than not. That he liked video games and movies and had a mom and a family. I asked if any of them had any questions. A little girl in the front row raised her hand. Her question? “What is he going to be for Halloween?” Funny, we never did have a problem with the kids accepting him. He got Christmas cards from them, invites from them, they wanted to help him, to be his friend.
It happened to be some of the adults who were less accepting. They didn’t want to take the extra time, they were worried he would disrupt their class, they wondered how they would know if he was learning? I told one teacher to do what he does with the others. Teach him. He is learning and he will show you some time.
The teachers who were against having him in their class forgot one important thing….that ALL children have worth, ALL children matter. My son was a person who happened to have a disability he was NOT the disability!
We thought high school would be difficult. We were wrong. It was great. He became so much more independent. Kids greeted him by name. He taught computer programs to his para, he showed the teachers how smart he was.
Then he graduated. And now what? The real world still needs a lot of work. It isn’t inclusive like school is. My fervent wish is that while we are working so hard to include our kids in school, we don’t forgot that some day they will graduate. And many parents like me, will say, NOW WHAT? It isn’t easy.
Inclusion WILL help. The so called ‘normal’ kids who will grow up to be the doctors, case workers, cashiers, etc…who will be anyone who will work with our children , help them, wait on them will have hopefully learned, that ultimately we are ALL people . We ALL have worth. We ALL matter!
Inclusion. It is always the right thing to do!