Our AdvoKIT of the Month Award goes to School Age Program Director at Joint Base Lewis- McCord MWR Child, Youth & School Services, Erin Clapper! Our KIT Trainer, Janet George, nominated Erin for her hard work for the children of JBLM CYS. Her heart for inclusion is what earned her our Advo-KIT of the Month Award for July!
When were you first introduced to inclusion? Why did you choose to become a champion for inclusion?
I’ve been an advocate for inclusion for many years, just through my experience in the childcare field, and the training and support I receive through our military based program. I think I began supporting inclusion because I seem to build connections with those children who are in need of support. Overall, I want all children in my program to be happy, successful, and productive, and inclusion has been the best avenue for me to achieve this.
What do you love about inclusion?
For me, I love the noticible change in the children’s behaviors, their self esteem, and their peer relationships. This seems to create a domino effect that positively impacts the caregivers and families involved as well. Successful inclusion is meaningful because everyone benefits.
What is your vision for an inclusive world?
I think an inclusive world would be one where we have more understanding and willingness to have dialogue before jumping to conclusions or making preconceived notions. Even if inclusion is not completely successful for a child, the ability to try, and put our best effort forward is what matters. We really need to advocate for our children as best we can!
Did you overcome a barrier or roadblock regarding exclusion/inclusion?
Not necessarily, no. However, I grew up a military child, and the mobility involved with being a military family is just by itself a roadblock to being included!
What is one of your most memorable inclusion experiences?
I have one child in mind who will always be memorable to me. He was a very explosive child, when he started in my program. He was quite tall for his age, which made his behaviors very intimidating for my teachers. He was also a flight risk. I would spend many days with him as he tore apart an empty room or paced the hallways, intervening when he attempted to get physical with another child. Some time into our relationship together, he bolted from the playground after getting frustrated. He was angrily explaining to me what happened as he was walking home. I listened intently, and then after a few minutes stated that I was going back to the center because I was tired and didn’t want to walk anymore. I matter-of-factly stated he could come with me or I could call the authorities to get him. His eyes got big, he thought for a minute, and he said he’d rather come back with me. He didn’t run from the center again after that day!
What is your top tip that you would give to someone working with children?
Thanks to Erin for sharing her words of wisdom, and to all you advocates out there– keep up the fantastic work in including kids of all abilities!
–Edited by KIT Staff
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.