This week, we are sharing the story of Evie, a 20-month-old girl who is rocking inclusion! Thanks to her mom, Michelle, for sharing their experience with us.
A couple weeks ago I was picking Evie up from daycare and noticed a huge display in the lobby titled, “It’s okay to be different”. The entire focus promoting inclusion of children with disabilities within the center. Inclusion has had a tremendous impact on my daughter and the improvements she is making everyday. I am certain she has improved her mobility so much because she is motivated to be as active and mobile as her classmates. She has also benefited greatly from the dedication and patience of the staff that work with her each day.
Her classroom teachers and all the support staff have been wonderful, willing to collaborate with us to ensure Evie is set up for success. One of the best decisions I made was to do the majority of Evie’s Early Intervention therapy visits at her daycare center. This process allowed her teachers to be involved in the therapy process, bring up concerns so that we could problem-solve solutions, and provided opportunities for them to learn specific therapy techniques that could be encouraged in the classroom. It also allowed her therapist to evaluate the classroom and provide input and equipment that would assist in our goal of having Evie included.
In addition to the teachers, the support staff and center management all have the goal of supporting each child’s learning. I have had multiple meetings with her lead teacher, Early Intervention specialist, and the daycare’s Health and Special Needs Coordinator to discuss the best ways to meet Evie’s unique needs, everything from toys, specialized equipment, to modifying classroom furniture. We have all worked together as a team to ensure that the adaptations allow Evie to fully participate in all the daily routines and activities. Meals, playtime, walks, outings to the farmer’s market, story-time, art, naptime…Evie is always included. Evie is able to sit at the table with other kids for meals, snacks, and craft activities. She is able to explore the playground in her gait trainer. In every activity, she is able to interact and actively participate with the other children and teachers.
The staff are friendly, encouraging, and celebrate each child’s learning. We receive weekly newsletters celebrating progress and outlining the learning activities completed each week. I love reading about the events of the week and seeing pictures illustrating how inclusive the classroom is. The teachers ensure that each child is able to participate in school-wide events. In March they held a school wide art showcase presenting individual artwork from each child. I so appreciated that the individual interests of each child were represented. Evie loves music, and her display was a video of her playing a piano concerto in F minor which she composed… Just kidding! But seriously, watching a video of her playing on a keyboard was music to my ears and was just as impressive.
We have been fortunate to find a facility that embraces and emphasizes the concept of inclusion. I am grateful that our first experience with inclusion has been a positive one. I know I have a long journey ahead and will definitely face concerns with inclusion in the future. Hopefully I have learned some tools to make the process of inclusion something that I will always advocate for, because it is ok to be different. That message is not only true for Evie, but for every other child, those with disabilities and those without. Everyone should always feel included.
Michelle is a wife, mother, and professionally works as a nurse practitioner. She is also the creator and author of shekeepsmoving.com; a blog she recently started to document some of the adventures she and her family are having.
“My daughter Evie is the love of my life. She is now 20 months old and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy about one year ago. She inspires me, motivates me, and encourages me to be better everyday. We are on quite the journey; I hope you’ll join us along the way!”