Do you feel like the word inclusion is popping up more in schools, the news and within your own circle of friends? Well, you’re right. Inclusion is all around us in classrooms, workplaces, community events! We are just starting to see the many ways we can embrace the abilities of every person. While we have made progress in being more accepting, it’s important to keep pushing forward. Inclusion affects everyone, not just children and adults with developmental disabilities. Find out what one early educational professional thinks we have to gain from making inclusion a priority.
The importance of inclusion
“It is necessary on so many levels,” stressed Summit DD Senior Manager of Children’s Services, Tina Overturf when asked about the importance of inclusion. “If we want to make an impact, it starts with our children! It’s a disservice to all kids – with or without disabilities – not to be inclusive,” she stated passionately.
Overturf explained that inclusion teaches kids to learn about each other as people. It helps them embrace all of our differences and connect on our similarities. The concept of inclusion shows kids how to look beyond the physical and get to know who someone is, as a person, on the inside. “Difference is the norm,” Overturf continued. “Why is one kid’s difference more acceptable? We grow by learning about each other’s differences. We grow by learning from each other.”
She explained that inclusive settings like day cares, preschools and elementary classrooms lay the foundation for kids to learn other essential skills like patience, open-mindedness and empathy. Skills that will benefit them as they become adults and enter the workforce.
“Our world is headed toward cooperation and working together,” Overturf said of the changing face of the workforce and our nation. “If we keep an entire population of people separate, we are not helping to move things along. Segregation is never OK. Each person matters. We need to teach lessons beyond textbooks.”
How do we take the first steps?
Good news! We’ve already taken the first steps. Programs like Summit DD’s Community Partnership for Inclusion (CPI) are paving the way for kids to learn and play together. Inclusive environments in a child’s early years set the tone for successful relationships in the future. Tina noted Summit DD is at the center of inclusion. “We are the resource for the community when it comes to creating inclusive environments. Our website is the perfect place to start.”
Another recommendation Tina offered is to support inclusion yourself. “Fight with us,” she urged. “All kids should be seen as individuals. Model kindness and acceptance yourself.”
She recommended families invite and include kids with special needs to parties or play dates; look for ways to accommodate special dietary needs of classmates when sending in a birthday treat with your child; or encourage your children to make new friends and include other children in the cafeteria or on the playground. These small but simple steps can make a big impact in the future.
”We’ve moved the needle, but we still have a ways to go,” reflected Overturf. “When I envision where we are headed, I see that silly clip art picture of kids of all races, religions and abilities, all holding hands around the earth – where everyone is represented. That’s the vision we are working toward.”
Be a game changer
There are a number of ways to start making a difference in your community today. Come on, fight with us!
- Join us at one of our inclusive events found on our online calendar.
- Connect with us through our Facebook page and meet others who want to make a difference.
- Share stories of amazing people who have disabilities.
- Learn about the variety of supports and services coordinated through Summit DD for children and adults with developmental disabilities.