Each month we celebrate an individual who is instrumental in helping make this world a more inclusive place. In March 2014, we honor Bea as KIT’s first Advo-KIT of the month.
Bea is the CYS Services Coordinator at Joint Base Lewis McChord and is in every way a champion for inclusion. She has very high expectations for her staff regarding inclusion and is also a great advocate, making sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs well.
Bea explains why she loves inclusion and how she makes it happen:
1. What do you love about inclusion?
Children learn from each other. I have seen children over the years with severe special needs accomplish things the medical community said they never could do because they were included in a classroom with all sorts of abilities.
2. Why have you chosen to be a champion for inclusion?
Children are children no matter what. All kids love to play, want to feel good about themselves and want to be successful in the world around them. All kids have varying levels of abilities and deserve to have the opportunity to be successful.
3. What is your vision for an inclusive world?
There is respect and kindness for all children as well as the opportunity for them to learn and play in a safe, healthy and positive environment. My vision is for better education and hands on training for caregivers and teachers so they can be more effective in creating environments that encourage children with all abilities to feel welcomed, supported and successful.
4. Did you overcome a barrier or roadblock regarding exclusion/inclusion?
I didn’t find out until I was in my mid forties I had an auditory processing disability! I wasn’t labeled so I think I overcame a lot of my challenges by having supportive teachers and parents who taught to my abilities verses my disability.
5. What is one of your most memorable inclusion experiences?
In early 1990 I had the opportunity to know a little girl with a very rare condition called Apert syndrome. Apert syndrome is a congenital disorder where the skull and face are malformed and the toes and fingers are fused. The doctors said she would most likely never walk or talk and had other complications that would make life tough for her.
Kayla came to our child care program when she was 15 weeks old. Her mom was a single enlisted soldier in the Army who had difficulty finding child care because her infant had such a rare syndrome. Army Child Development Services had just started their special needs training pilot initiative so at the time we had Kayla join us in child care there was not a formal inclusion training program for us to draw on.
As an Education Program Specialist (ECE Trainer) I knew I had to help my staff overcome their fears as well as my own with helping Kayla integrate in our Infant room. There was very little information available on Apert Syndrome so we had to pioneer some of the accommodations we developed. What I discovered in this experience is Kayla became our teacher. She taught us to focus on what she could do verses what she couldn’t do. She taught us to try different ways to help her accomplish tasks with variations on making grippies for her bottle so she learned to hold her bottle, or velcro to help her grip crayons. We had to learn there are sometimes setbacks (two open heart surgeries) and sometimes there are triumphs (rolling over, sitting up and walking when the medical community said she wouldn’t!).
What I learned from her is all children want to learn, to be loved and to be successful in their environment. In our pioneering efforts to include Kayla into our program, I realized there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary we had to do outside of the developmentally appropriate practices we already had in place except for a few simple modifications. I think the most profound thing I learned as well as my caregivers is the only roadblock to inclusion of children with different abilities was our mindset and attitudes.
6. What is your top tip that you would give to someone working with children?
Remember children are naturally accepting of one another and their abilities until adults tell them or show them something different. Children are not their labeled disability and it is important to build on their abilities.
– Interview submitted by Janet George, KIT’s Education and Training Specialist. 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.