A sassy, crafty mama bird from Los Angeles
raising a very sweet little girl with Autism
and a new baby boy in the Midwest... and other stuff, too.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why I still believe in inclusion programming

I've shared before my feelings on inclusion and how pulling Little Bird from her Early Intervention preschool program in favor of a full inclusion program was one of the very best things I ever did for her. I really pushed the social goals above the academic ones and it made a big difference for a while.

Inclusion programs not only give a child with a disability some good ol' fashioned peer modeling, so she can see what her typically developing peers do, how they behave, etc. Yes, there's always a kid or two in a class that you don't want your kid to model, but still. A child can learn to feel more accepted and a part of the larger group in an inclusive environment, leading to more confidence and willingness to branch out, break out of a shell, etc. Of course, this is really just if the whole program, teachers, staff, and students are on board. We were beyond blessed with the inclusion preschool Little Bird attended where she was loved, accepted, and nurtured. She made some real friends for the first time ever.

Inclusion programs give typically developing kids the chance to learn from kids with disabilities. They learn that not everyone is the same and that's okay. They learn what it's like to help someone who needs a friend. They learn that just because a child doesn't speak, it doesn't mean they don't have anything to say. The also learn that a kid might be different in a lot of ways, but she also like pizza, swimming, jumping on a trampoline, and watching the same TV shows, just like her typically developing peers. The truly learn that the world is a big place and that there are all kinds of people who make it up. They learn all these things if given the opportunity and if encouraged to branch out and take a chance in befriending someone a little different.

Over the years, I've gotten to see adults be profoundly changed by the lessons they've learned in inclusion programs, as well. I've seen 1:1 shadows get inspired by my girl and become ABA therapists, I've seen 1:1 shadows get inspired by her to get degrees in special education, I've seen special ed teachers learn enough about Autism from her to go back to school for ASD teaching certification. This, however, was a really sweet thing to read on Little Bird's Sunday School report card:

"{Bird} has been my greatest lesson this year in that she made me see that just because someone does not demonstrate understanding in the same way as others doesn't mean they don't understand.... It is I who should be giving thanks, as having {Bird} has made me a better teacher."

Inclusion programming benefits everyone. Inclusion can happen anywhere: in school, religious school and services, on the soccer field, and in a ballet class. All around. Keep advocating for it, folks!

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