The Philosophy, Practice, and Community Of Inclusion
Together we can make inclusion a reality! It’s time for our communities to rethink the way we meaningfully include and support children with disabilities. Let’s take a step back and explore the meaning of inclusion, its core principles, and how we can put inclusion into practice to benefit our communities.
At Kids Included Together (KIT), helping build safe, inclusive communities that care for every individual and focus on strengths is at the core of everything we do.
As you read on, let’s explore the concept of inclusion and learn more about how KIT works to create an inclusive community through our disability inclusion and behavior support training, and discover how you can bring this concept to life in your own school or organization.
What is Inclusion?
Philosophy of Inclusion: It’s About Belonging
Inclusion is a mindset that embraces and values diversity in children and families. It is about ensuring that everyone feels a sense of belonging, has the opportunity to participate, and can reach their full potential.
Those with an inclusive mindset believe in the importance of bringing children of all abilities together and see diversity as an asset. At the core of this belief is the fundamental idea that every child has the right to be included. Inclusion is a way to uphold civil rights and eliminate the “us vs. them” mentality.
To truly be inclusive, one must value difference as something to be celebrated and respected. You have to be willing to open your doors and minds to everyone, realizing that we’re all different and that everyone has unique strengths.
If you’re open-minded enough to think this way, you’re already inclusive; the next step is to take your inclusive attitude out into the world and put it into practice by providing opportunities for all children to be together in environments where everyone can participate and where no one is excluded.
Are Your Programs Truly Inclusive?
The Inclusion Checklist for Programs will help you assess your class or program in 16 categories so you can start, improve, or excel at serving kids with and without disabilities, behavior challenges, or other complex needs.
The Checklist is a great tool KIT developed to use with your team to uncover growth opportunities together!
Practice of Inclusion: Making Accommodations
Making accommodations for children and youth within the programs you operate is a central facet of inclusion.
Inclusive childcare and youth development programs make accommodations to support individual children and families. Accommodations are changes to policies, practices, environments, and procedures that allow equal access for all. They are made on a case-by-case basis, focusing on the unique needs of each individual and providing individualized support.
Practicing inclusion takes commitment from everyone involved and requires a willingness to learn new approaches. Organizations can assess their current practices and identify areas for change to meet the needs of each individual.
What Does Inclusion Look Like?
The practice of inclusion is influenced by many factors. An inclusive program can be thought of in terms of access, participation, and support.
Access pertains to the ease of movement and independence within the physical environment, as well as the support and services provided by staff to ensure that all children can learn and play together.
Participation encompasses not only the number of people involved in a program or activity, but also the level of engagement and attention they give to the material or task at hand. This includes tailoring plans to consider an individual’s strengths and styles for their participation.
Support includes the encouragement, expertise, and guidance offered, as well as any additional services that may be provided. Support can come from anyone from the program leadership to the direct care professionals.
Community of Inclusion: Meaningful Participation
Inclusive communities are created when we make it a priority to welcome and include everyone. This priority is made clear when it is reflected in the conversations, policies, programs, and services we see in our community.
We must give all children and youth opportunities where they’re included in all aspects of life—in classrooms, on sports teams, in daycare centers, during recess at school and summer camps, in extracurricular activities such as scouts or dance classes, while volunteering at local organizations, while attending religious services or community events, and at home, too.
Children and youth with disabilities not only benefit from providing their unique perspectives, but they also become powerful advocates for inclusion in their communities.
The Benefits of Inclusion
Inclusive childcare and youth development programs benefit children, families, and program staff. Everybody wins when we work together to provide inclusive programs that are responsive to the needs of individuals within our community.
Inclusion Benefits Kids: Diversity & Acceptance
Children with and without disabilities learn from each other and contribute as equals.
For kids, inclusion is a positive experience that builds self-esteem and teaches compassion. Inclusive program activities provide children with and without disabilities the opportunity to learn from one another, contribute as equals, and participate in hands-on learning experiences.
By being more inclusive and accepting of individual needs, we can help teach our children valuable life lessons about empathy, compassion, and equality.
Inclusion Benefits Families: Support & Resources
Families that have access to resources typically have less stress and a shorter period of adjustment.
Childcare and youth development programs can play a key role in helping families, especially those with children who have disabilities, to thrive. Families with access to inclusive resources, program activities, and professional support often have a smoother transition and experience better outcomes, greatly reducing stress and aiding in the successful social adjustment of children with disabilities.
Inclusion Benefits Staff: Training & Experience
Staff with training and experience are more positive about inclusion.
Having trained and experienced staff is crucial for promoting inclusion. Training can significantly enhance staff attitudes towards inclusion and children with disabilities. Experienced staff members are more comfortable and capable of supporting and serving youth with disabilities, leading to a more inclusive environment.
Challenges To Achieving True Inclusion And Ways To Overcome Them
While inclusion is a principle that is vital for the well-being and development of all children, it can be difficult to achieve true inclusion for children with disabilities. We’ve outlined some common barriers to inclusion plus ideas and FREE resources for overcoming them:
1. Lack of understanding: Many people may not fully understand the concept of inclusion and its importance, leading to resistance or lack of support.
To address this, it is important to educate and raise awareness about inclusion and its benefits. There is a lot of work left to do, but at KIT, we know that there’s no time like the present to start taking the first step toward inclusion.
Watch this video. KIT is dedicated to teaching inclusive practices and behavior support strategies to individuals and organizations who serve children.
2. Limited resources: Many schools and communities may not have the resources they need to support children with disabilities and create truly inclusive environments.
To address this, teachers, facilitators, and program leaders need low-cost or free accommodations that mitigate barriers to learning and behavior support. These include things like specialized physical education equipment and accessible materials (like Braille textbooks), as well as professional development options for teachers and staff.
Take this KIT course. You’ll learn easy-to-use, low-cost tips and tools that represent the best practices in disability inclusion, helping provide the ideal opportunity for youth with disabilities to connect with their non-disabled peers and experience a sense of belonging they don’t always get.
3. Stereotypes and bias: Children with disabilities may face stereotypes and biases that can prevent them from being fully included in their communities.
To address this, it is important to actively work to break down stereotypes and biases and promote a culture of inclusion and acceptance. By learning about each other’s differences, peers can begin to better understand one another’s perspectives.
Celebrate differences with this KIT webinar. This webinar will present strategies for creating opportunities for everyone to contribute meaningfully, reflecting differences positively in a program environment, and modeling respect for differences.
4. Lack of family and caregiver engagement: Families or caregivers of children with disabilities may not be fully engaged in the inclusion process, which can limit its effectiveness.
To address this, it is important to actively seek out and engage with families and caregivers to better understand their needs and perspectives and ensure that they are included in the inclusion process.
And one of the best ways to do this is to simply start by asking thoughtful questions. The goal is not to determine a diagnosis (though it might help). What you really want is to know what will help the child be successful in your program, and their families always know best.
Download this KIT Tip Sheet: 5 Questions to Ask Families. Through this guide, you’re setting yourself up as an accessible resource for parents and family members, showing them that they are valued as partners through open and considerate conversations. This is how we build trust—it’s not only important for families to feel trusted, but it’s also important for teachers and service providers to feel trusted by families.
5. Exclusionary policies and family communication: Even if you don’t mean to send exclusionary messages, it’s possible that your policies or communications could do just that.
The language you use in your marketing materials and print pieces, the pictures around the program, how staff talk to parents, and even how they talk to individual children can send messages to parents that they might not have intended.
There are subtle things that also send important messages. If one of your policies states that you only allow children who reach a certain developmental milestone by a certain age, you’re excluding children who develop more slowly than others without disabilities.
To address this, regularly reviewing your policies and communications can help ensure that you’re promoting inclusion in every way.
Download this KIT Guide: Communicating Your Commitment To Inclusion. Use this quick checklist to ensure your program is sending inclusive messages to children and families.
Putting It All Together: How KIT Can Help You In Your Ongoing Efforts To Promote & Practice Inclusion
Kids with disabilities have faced even more challenges over the past few years and will need teachers and providers who are prepared and able to help. KIT can help your staff feel confident and capable of embracing this challenge. We offer training and professional development in a variety of flexible virtual formats.
Explore our services:
✔️ Online Training for Individuals and Teams
Our best-in-class online inclusion training covers autism, ADHD, challenging behaviors, communicating with families, and more.
✔️ Inclusion Support Packages for Organizations
KIT seeks to build the knowledge and confidence that you or your team needs to achieve a “want to, can do, will do” attitude toward inclusive practices. This package of blended services can be online training, coaching, and policy development. .
✔️ Speaking Engagements for Conferences and Events
KIT staff travel the world sharing their passion for inclusion at conferences, events, and organizations.
Since 1997, KIT has provided disability inclusion and behavior support training for over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders in more than 600 organizations. KIT training has reached all 50 states and 15 countries. Our work creates a “want to, can do, will do” attitude in staff. We give them the tools and support to ensure that every child who enrolls will be meaningfully included.
Contact KIT and our experienced staff will work with you to create a program that meets your specific needs!