Inclusion is a word the special needs community hears quite often. It is seared into our vocabulary. We say it countless times in a single week. It is sitting on the edge of any social or educational environment. It is a word that should be in every school, every public space, all over the world, in huge neon lights, as a constant reminder of its importance. At times it may be an after-thought. Let’s build this playground and then see how we can add elements for all abilities.
Let’s start a theme in class on every students’ favorite author and then see how we can adapt to those who are non-verbal. What inclusion truly means is that our kiddos, who face insurmountable challenges on a day to day to day basis, are considered from the initial spark of an idea to something coming into full form.
In order for inclusion to become commonplace in the school environment, we need to head into situations (often paving the way) asking and offering ideas as to how our kiddos can be included in their day-to-day school life to the best of their ability.
First and foremost, true inclusion is not just being physically or geographically in the classroom. But, it is being there with full access to communication tools and the students’ curriculum. It is having the curriculum adapted to our students needs in a way that allows them to answer questions and give input in a way they are able to do so.
What does this look like? This may mean that a student has their eye gaze device available and accessible to them at all times. It means that they have soft-tech communication tools such as a yes/no board or ABC flipbooks so they can answer questions, complete work, and be an active part of their learning journey when outside of the classroom.
It means that they have someone who is able to help them access these tools if they are not able to do so themselves. Have someone paying attention to where their eyes are pointing (with Partner Assisted Scan), modelling on their eye gaze devices continuously, so they can map meaning to what is on their device.
It means making a way for our students to overcome challenges and gain a little independence.
Inclusion means that all truly means all, in some way shape or form. It means that all forms of communication, including behavior, are taken into consideration. It means joyful learning and fun. It means capitalizing on one’s strengths and building upon them.
It means helping a child have some form of independence by being given a choice either verbally or visually. It means helping a child foster relationships with their peers and letting peers properly utilize the student’s communication tools to help build friendships.
It means giving your child the opportunity to let someone know they need to take a break, move about, or rest. It means giving the student the chance to have and use a clear and definable no. It means a student is given extra time to respond. Inclusion means that just because something has not happened yet does not mean it never will.
Inclusion for your child in the school environment requires a collaborative team effort, understanding on both sides, and very open communication. If something doesn’t work, then there is room to adapt and space to try something else.
It is ever-evolving and is not a one size fits all formula. What works for one does not necessarily work for all, or even most. Inclusion is physical assistance, environmental adaptations as much as it is a mind-set.
Inclusion is facing the school environment head on to help our children blossom and grow, letting their thoughts, opinions, and ideas be heard among their peers.
It is a lot of work, but it is worth all of the effort in order to help make a way for our children.
This school year and every school year is filled with infinite opportunities for growth, learning, and inclusion—May this school year be filled with all of these things and so much more!
We also have a few items that will be helpful for your child’s acclimation into their classroom environment: