This month, we are celebrating the accomplishments of Brooke Boswell, March’s Advo-KIT of the Month! Brooke works as a Child, Youth, and School Services Administrator at US Army-Child, Youth and School Services in Germany! Brooke, thank you for spreading the word about inclusion across the world, and congratulations on being recognized as Advo-KIT of the Month!
When were you first introduced to inclusion? Why did you choose to become a champion for inclusion?
I was first introduced to the concept of inclusion during college when I was taking education courses focused on working with children with special needs. I made the commitment to become a champion for inclusion when I began working with children with autism while I was a camp counselor at a camp that facilitated ropes course experiences for children with special needs. It was and still remains one of the most important commitments of my life.
What do you love about inclusion?
There are many things I love about inclusion. I love the sense of community that is inherent in inclusive environments and how children grow to care and respect each other. I love that children learn from each other’s differences. I love that children learn that it is okay to be different and that being different is a great thing that makes each of us so groovy!
What is your vision for an inclusive world?
My vision for an inclusive world is very simple: no more discrimination of any kind.
Did you overcome a barrier or roadblock regarding exclusion/inclusion?
I have been extremely fortunate that I have not had to overcome barriers or roadblocks regarding inclusion.
What is one of your most memorable inclusion experiences?
One of my most memorable inclusion experiences involves a group of fourth grade girls that I was working with to help improve their skills in mathematics. It was a group of 9 girls from 3 different classrooms and we met twice a week for 30 minutes during the course of 8 weeks. One of the girls was new to the school, and she wore leg braces and used forearm crutches due to Blount disease. On the first day of our group meeting, it was obvious that the girls were curious about our new classmate but did not know how to approach or interact with her, so they tended to exclude her from their conversations. During our second meeting, I informed the girls that we would start our sessions with a quick show-and-tell type of activity. At the end of this meeting, I encouraged our new friend to talk about her braces and crutches—if she was comfortable. She was immediately excited to share these pieces of herself with the group, and she volunteered to go first during the next session. It was amazing! The other girls listened with rapt attention and asked lots of questions at the end. Needless to say, that day’s session had very little to do with math skills but had everything to do with human compassion. After that day, it was as if a switch had been flipped and all of the girls worked together during the remainder of our sessions. I even noticed most of them playing together during recess! I learned a great lesson through this experience about the power of educating children about our differences and that the impact is even greater if the education comes from another child.
What is your top tip that you would give to someone working with children?
My top tip for people working with children: it is all about compassion and connection. The more compassionate we are about the children we work with, the greater our understanding will be of the situations they face. This compassion and understanding will lead us to better and stronger connections. It is this connection that will enable us to truly make the difference we seek in the lives of the children with which we work.
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.