As a mother of twin toddlers, I am living my life in a whirlwind of movement, messes, and occasional mayhem. I have moments of frustration, moments of exhaustion, moments of wonder, and moments of overwhelming pride. Perhaps my proudest moment came the other day in a conversation with my children’s toddler room teacher. Sam and Lilah attend a full-day early childhood program four days per week and for the most part, they do very well in this setting. I always enjoy the things their teachers have to share with me…even the time one of Sam’s teachers told me he called her a “Stinky Man” in an attempt to avoid a nap. Every mother must wonder, “Where do they get these things?”
The “Stinky Man” was not my proudest moment, but it did give me a good chuckle. My proudest moment was when Sam’s teacher told me a story of how my two-year-old stood up for his friend. Sam and another boy, I’ll call him Adam, were looking at a cookbook together in the library. A third boy, who I will call Jack, approached Sam and Adam. Adam said, “Go away, Jack!” Sam looked right at Adam and said, “No, Jack’s my friend, and he can sit here too.” I would be proud of Sam regardless of who Jack or any other child he stuck up for happened to be. But, in this case, Jack happens to be a child who uses very few words. In the middle of the year in a toddler classroom, with many children approaching three years old, it is a language explosion. Children are so proud of their budding ability to communicate their wants and needs. Jack is getting there too but does not have quite as many ways to stick up for himself as his classmates.
Thinking about Sam and the way he stuck up for Jack, I was overwhelmed with pride. Sam sees Jack as his friend and connects with him in ways that do not require words. Sam sees all the things that Jack can contribute and he wants to spend time with him. Jack sees all the things that Sam can contribute and as Jack’s mom says, “follows Sam wherever he goes.” As a KIT Trainer, I promise I have not “trained” my son. Of course I find lots of ways to highlight how people are different and talk, move, and think in different ways. But I can’t take credit for this one. Sam naturally connected with Jack because they are members of the same classroom community and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. That is inclusion – as natural and genuine as two boys making one another laugh and sharing a cookbook. The part that fills me to the brim with pride is the budding advocate in Sam. He knows that all kids belong and he’s willing to say it…and I could not be any more proud. Unlike the “Stinky Man” I know where he gets this idea. He gets it from the messages we send as his parents and teachers, and in his everyday experiences in an inclusive classroom.
–Written by Alissa Marotto, KIT staff member.
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.