Today, I’d like to tell you a story about a student of mine named Elena. Elena is a seventh grade student who has been working so hard all year. She comes in to office hours before school, takes home extra study materials and extra credit work, and has significantly improved her self-advocacy skills. She is a kind-hearted, helpful, and responsible. However, she learns in separate settings for all of her academic classes every day, and I often wonder how much exposure she gets to her peers who are typically-developing (and how much exposure they get to her wonderful self!).
This Spring, Elena joined our school’s girls’ soccer team. She has been such an amazing team player, cheering on her team members and giving every practice and game 100% of her effort. She has blossomed into an aggressive and skilled soccer player, and a true athlete. The best part of all, though, has been to see the relationships she has built, especially with the older players who have welcomed her to the team. At our first game, she was elated to have her first few minutes in the game. When we put in a sub for her, she came running off the field to a group of her peers who greeted her with bottles of water and high fives, congratulating her on a successful first game. Any time Elena is running a drill at practice, her teammates cheer her on, and she does the same for them.
Elena has become so much more outgoing since she joined the soccer team. Before soccer, I hadn’t seen her with many close friends outside of class. Now, she comes early to school to spend time with her friends at breakfast. Furthermore, these friends are not just friends from the team, but girls also who do not play soccer. Due to Elena’s newfound soccer community at school, she has become more and more comfortable in her skin and in our school, allowing her to make friends with ease. And this, my friends, is why I believe in inclusion.
–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Writer and Editor
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.