Each day at circle time, the children of the Calico Center gather in a circle and sing. A tambourine is passed around the circle to each child, welcoming him or her to class that day. As the tambourine is passed to five-year old Gavin, without being asked, the little girl sitting beside him immediately reaches over to help him keep the beat. Gavin has a developmental disability; however to Gavin’s friend helping him during circle time, he was just a friend who needed her assistance during his turn. Children’s innate ability to be inclusive is admirable. It may just be the best evidence that inclusive classrooms make the best learning environments. But sadly, even in 2013, that is not the case in many classrooms. In many places, children with special needs are taught in separate classrooms from their typically developing peers.
There is a myth out there that children with developmental disabilities should be in a separate classroom. But as witnessed by those associated with Calico and the many child care centers involved in a program called the Community Partnership for Inclusion (CPI), the undisputed fact is kids are kids. Every child out there, with or without a disability, just wants to learn and play with his or her peers. That is just part of being a kid. It is also the reason supporting inclusion is so important.
Gavin and his twin brother Blake are two of the more than 800 children in Summit County served by the County of Summit Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD). They attend the Calico Center, an inclusive child care center for children with and without disabilities, to provide them with the same childhood experiences that their typically developing peers have in the preschool years.
Calico was the initial point to promote the idea of inclusion, and the concept has blossomed from there. The CPI program was created in 2010 to support child care centers in Summit County so that children with special needs have access to quality child care in their own communities. Skilled Summit DD Developmental Specialists and Assistants provide training to child care centers and their staff to enhance learning environments, promote inclusion strategies, develop play skills, and work with specific behaviors. To date, Summit DD has 16 inclusive child care center partners throughout Summit County and over 600 child care center staff have received inclusion training from Summit DD staff.
Joan Bauer, a Child Care Specialist at Calico, talked about her experience with the twins in the inclusive setting. “They have flourished from being part of this class and interacting with the other kids,” Bauer said. “Small adaptations to common routines give the boys the opportunity to participate in activities with their typically developing peers. This experience at Calico has really helped prepare them for a school setting.”
Gavin and Blake’s friends will miss them when they head off to elementary school next year, where they will get to be part of a new classroom. However, based on their history at Calico and the friends that they have made there, they will have no trouble making new friends or winning the hearts of their teachers. Additionally, there will be some fortunate kids in their community that will have the opportunity to learn and play with two new friend named Gavin and Blake. Because after all, those future classmates already know the fact that kids are kids.
Summit DD believes that everyone has the right to work, live and learn as equal citizens in their community. Summit DD makes a difference in the lives of Blake, Gavin and more than 4,000 others because of the support from Summit County residents. To find out how you can get the facts and support Summit DD, sign up for our newsletters at http://summitdd.org/Email_registration.aspx.