After last week, I feel like i need to clarify two reasons to promote inclusion of special needs children, otherwise known to me as simply the topic of INCLUSION. You see, for me unlike some other moms, the word disability does not insult nor define my family. I have a disabled son, and calling him such does not label him. It is simply a description that I have learned allows him to receive services he would otherwise could not, like having a vision teacher at birth and therapies. As humans, for some reason, we are so quick to judge. But worse than even that, we gawk…we stare…we bully. But why?
Situations to Promote Inclusion of Special Needs Children
There are many. Here are ones I most readily find problematic at this point of my parenting a special needs child.
- Family and Friends. Excluding one child who is healthy in order to only visit my special needs child is just as unacceptable as is excluding him. Seriously, take that to heart! It happens.
- Watching the bullying of families with service dogs and being helpless since we don’t have one yet.
- The sympathetic smiles of someone who wants to ignore what they are seeing instead of asking questions and caring. Ignoring what you don’t understand is the perfect recipe for ignorance, not truth and understanding.
- Games and Toys. No, he cannot walk. No he cannot hold large objects. No, he can not run the soccer field. BUT, he CAN and he WANTS to participate in everything his older sister participates in, and we find ways to make that happen.
For these reasons and many many more, I have a vision for this blog that the activities we share here and the products you can purchase here give you a starting place to finding the resources you need, as well as developing the ideas your own inclusion of your special needs children (or maybe, moms, its your younger child! wink wink). Teachers, how you can invite the special needs classroom into your classroom for cut and paste time. There is ZERO reason any child should feel different due to IGNORANCE. The devil is the reason for HATRED. Not ignorance. Here are two important reasons why inclusion is critical:
1. Equality, not Entitlement
So, last week I sat in a store the size of Super Walmart listening to a woman chastise and chew out an owner of a service dog in training. She was scared of dogs and her husband was allergic. She used her soapbox to preach about how bringing an animal into an establishment was disgusting because she felt giving the disabled rights to service dogs was negating her rights to be fear-free and allergen-free.
Seriously lady? This pretty much angered me. Any of you guys seen the show SPEECHLESS yet? Yeah, my head was thinking how that mom acted. & this wasn’t even about me!
We don’t want to “compare” as a society, because that’s not fair. Each person is their own, and comparing leads to self-respect and authority issues, right? Well… lets compare it anyway. First of all, the dog or any other adaptive equipment is made to make him equal to you, not superior. What did the lady fear? A dog. Who was on a leash. Who was behaving, ignoring her, focusing completely on his trainer. Fear is irrational though, so we must forget that. Lets assume the dog was being trained for the stereotypical “seeing eye dog.” Possibly a CEO Father who had been in a house fire and lost his eyesight. What does he fear? Crossing a busy road? Catching the next bus into town? Hears the snickers from the buildings as he passes? What about cooking his own dinner? Lets change it up… the dog was going to a seizure patient who could receive ten minutes of warning before a seizure. Imagine the fear never knowing when he’ll wake up with a concussion from a fall, a bitten tongue from the convulsions, or the need for medical attention and unable to signal for help.
Would she be willing to trade places with the owner-to-be? No? Lets embrace her entitlement then, right? Entitlement alone is a big enough reason society needs to promote the inclusion of special needs children, and adults.
Furthermore, lady… for your husband, I hate that he is allergic to dogs. That just stinks. Dogs are sweet creatures. But, think about this for a single solitary moment. Tell me of one other allergen in the world that is banned from a location simply because it is an allergen to others. Peanuts? Maybe in schools. Maybe. But they are still sold in stores, some restaurants still serve food made with peanuts or peanut oil. Do you realize that people can be allergic to the sun, to cotton, to gluten, to red dye in food, to fluoride in water, to dust? I don’t have bad allergies, so maybe I just can’t relate. But, unless you force companies to remove every single possible allergen from a business, why do you expect them to remove a service animal for the reason it is an allergen? Good luck with that; call me when you offer to trade places with the blind or seizure dog owner.
2. Human Dignity
My son is worth your respect and honor. Got that straight? Now lets get one other thing straight. There is no one who is unworthy of your respect because of the fact they are disabled. Period, end of story. You are free to not respect anyone, but you are not free to not give respect because they are disabled. My three-year-old daughter has a son named Declan. I adore him, and his family. The other day we were leaving the Y, and you wanna know what happened? As our three year olds kissed goodbye, Declan (and therefore his 19-month old sister following suit) ran across the entire building because he forgot to give Noah a kiss goodbye too. My 19-mo old who TOWERED over him and his sister (sitting in his chair) got a kiss goodbye. And, Noah noticed! He giggled and kicked and laughed and played.
Close your eyes and imagine: You are seven years old sitting in your first grade classroom.
You hear your teacher: “OKay class, I want you to take these 6 squares and cut them apart.”
[[OMG! Yay! (I think to myself!) I LOVE cutting and pasting! The glue is so sticky in my hands and the paper sounds so cool when it turns into two pieces!!!]]
“Then,” the teacher continues, “remember back to yesterday’s Goldilocks story and glue them into your notebooks in the correct chronological order.
[[I LOVE THAT BOOK this will be so exciting! I can do this easy peasy, I’m a great reader and I can be the first one done!]]
The teacher says, “I’ll walk around, so please let me know if you need any help.”
[[Well crap, I can’t raise my hand to ask her if she’ll come help me. I know how to pick up the pieces, but my arms won’t let me. Hmm… Oh yeah! I’ll yell out! “Hey teacher!” Wait. I don’t know how to speak yet… I’m 6, but hopefully I have many more years to learn that.]]
Get it? Feeling very trapped inside a body with a very intelligent brain, but no skills to help you communicate? Feeling ashamed you can’t make your body do what your brain wants it to? Feeling sheepish everyone else can? Feeling trapped? Wasted? EVERYONE deserves to keep their dignity.
Wanna know what was said to me when I used this example in discussion the other day? I was told, “That’s what special needs rooms are for. The kids who can’t keep up. The kids who hold back the others.” So wait, was this mom telling me that kids like my Noah, who has L1 CAM Syndrome, hold kids like hers back? How callous! Sure, he isn’t capable of doing some of the things her son can do. But, he is capable of teaching her son a whole plethora of things that she and I could never dream to teach her son. Things he needs to learn to be a decent human being – something she isn’t.
How does this article relate to you? Are you the parent of a bully? Are you the advocate to a bullied? Talk to me, leave me a comment sharing about how this affects you! And sign up for our mailing list so you never miss another article!