Inclusion benefits everyone
Being Kieran’s mom for the past five years has had its ups and downs – with the ups out-weighing the downs – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The day we found out that Kieran had Down Syndrome, he was 5 months old. It felt like the end of the world for us. If not the end of the world, at least, the end of the dreams we had for our little boy.
We had to make new dreams, take each day as it came, and work endlessly to achieve them. From that day on it was a case of:
“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you RESPOND to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.”Unknown
From then on it was about what we could do to help Kieran be all he could be.
It’s been a long road with endless appointments: speech therapy, occupational therapy and extra lessons, all with the end goal of Kieran being the best he can, attending school and being INCLUDED.
Inclusion is a philosophy that embraces the idea that everyone has something of value to contribute and that everyone has a right to belong.
Parents of Kieran’s future classmates may be unsure of Kieran’s place in their child’s class, but let me reassure you, the benefits of Kieran in your child’s class far out way the negatives. Some parents may feel uncertain on how to interact with children with a disability due to a lack of knowledge or experience. But exposure to differences has the ability expand our perspective.
Maybe it won’t work for Kieran, only the future will tell, but that he would have had that opportunity and his classmates would have had that opportunity can only be good.
Studies show that inclusive education is beneficial for all students, not just special needs children. These benefits include:
- Meaningful friendships
- Increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences
- Increased understanding and acceptance of diversity
- Respect for all people
- Prepare students for adult life in an inclusive society
- Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others
- Greater academic outcomes
- All students needs are better met, greater resources for everyone
From an Occupational Therapist’s perspective, one of the key factors that form a person is their feeling of being loved and their sense of belonging. This plays a large role in the development of SELF – the building of self-esteem and self-confidence in a person.
“The road to inclusive education is rocky and windy and with obstacles along the way, but this adds to the building of character, not only in the special needs learner, but also in the peers who become friends with the former. Seeing how the rest of the classmates learn to communicate, accommodate and help their peer in all aspects is an important additional lifelong life skill they learn. Our communities are made up of a large variety of people and personalities, and these should all be embraced for who they are. Lastly a word of encouragement to everyone reading this, if you are a parent or not, have children with or without disabilities, try not to look at what a child cannot do, but rather at what the child IS ABLE to do. We are social beings and it takes a village to raise a child.”Nicola – one of Kieran’s special Occupational Therapists.
A child with disabilities often spends hours being taught how to interact with others, but why don’t we spend time teaching those without disabilities how to interact with them?
“Inclusive education is essential because through extending our imaginations into another person’s world whose experiences we may not share, we learn to empathize and connect. Those are the skills worth teaching our young people.”Mike Armiger
We want to give Kieran the best we can and feel that him being included in mainstream schooling will prepare him for the road ahead, make him more independent and better able to be part of the community.
Sure Kieran won’t walk in the footsteps of his grandfather and father and be a Civil Engineer but we still want him to make a difference and be happy in what he does one day. I don’t want him to just fill a position one day, I want him to FEEL and BE useful.
What advice can I give to any mom out there?
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”Maya Angelou
In a world where you can be anything … be kind.