This week, on the Inclusion Potluck, we welcome Heather, author of Team Aidan, to share her thoughts on inclusion and her unique perspective. We hope you are as touched by her piece as we were.
Inclusion is a trigger word for me. It’s the kind of word that makes me want to pull out all of my hair and run screaming for the hills.
My son Aidan has an undiagnosed developmental disability, and I have years of experience now with IEP meetings.
The first years of Aidan’s schooling were hard for all of the usual reasons. As his educational team, we did our best to include Aidan and learn from each other, but we also came to the table with different expectations.
While I will continue to beat the drum for inclusion at school, I realize that school is not the only place Aidan will experience life. While it hasn’t exactly been easier to involve him elsewhere, it’s been more of a priority.
When Aidan was five years old, we spent the weekend with family. Aidan and his cousins are all close in age. It was time for the big family pancake breakfast. As I was indulging in a quiet moment, enjoying my coffee before getting Aidan up, I heard the kids counting to three. Then I heard, ‘Okay, take a break.” Then, more counting. This continued for a few minutes until Aidan appeared in the kitchen, carried by his cousins. Of course, everyone deserves pancake breakfast! They worked together, smartly and safely, to get him where they were going. With no instructions, legal mandates, or formal training, Aidan’s cousins knew he belonged with them.
Aidan also participated in both a pig’s heart dissection and bird dissection experiment. Under the supervision of their very eccentric Pop, these same cousins got their hands on some science. Now, Aidan tends to put his hands in his mouth quite a bit, so the activity was changed up a bit for him. Aidan held a hard boiled egg instead of a heart and didn’t get to use the surgical grade scalpel. He looked at the diagram, peered through the magnifying glasses and watched as his cousins cut away. With these accommodations, there was never a question that Aidan would participate.
When Aidan was old enough to start attending church camp, I got a call from our children’s director. “Why isn’t Aidan signed up yet?” Realizing Aidan would need a one-to-one aide and some modified activities, I didn’t want to impose on their already stretched resources. The children’s director gave me a good talking-to on that one. “This is his home church, and these are his friends. He needs to be here.” He belongs.
In these other settings the question isn’t, “Where does Aidan belong?” but rather, “Aidan belongs with us. How do we make that happen?” I sometimes still get discouraged when I think about inclusion in the school setting, but wherever we go, the park, the beach, or the store, some child always says hello to Aidan. They know him because they’ve been in a class together, or they’ve seen him around the hallways in his powerchair. He’s been included, perhaps not to the degree I’d wanted, but enough that others recognize him as their peer. They understand that he belongs, and that gives me hope.
–Written by Heather, of Team Aidan, edited by KIT Staff
Heather met her husband in a castle in Ireland and they have 2 handsome sons. When Heather is not involved in the myriad of tasks required in raising a child with a disability, she can be found with her hands on her piano, her nose in a book, or her fingers at her keyboard blogging at Team Aidan.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.
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I think you just helped me process through some of the thoughts that have been weighing me down recently.
I take great pleasure in reading Heather’s blog. I always learn something new. Thank you for sharing this post on inclusion.
There is a woman in Colorado Springs by the name of Mary Jane Ponten. She is elderly, has cerebral palsy, and has dedicated her entire life to disability inclusion in religious settings, traveling to all areas of the world. She started the Mephibosheth Ministry to help with this area. There is a book she wrote called “When Today Becomes Tomorrow,” accessible through the Cerebral Palsy Association of Colorado Springs, 719 638-0808. I found it a very interesting read. Nice article.