Dear people, I have a message for you: inclusion is inconvenient.
In fact, inclusion can be frustrating, expensive, annoying, disagreeable, and come at great personal cost. After all, it is hardly your fault that these individuals should be unable to participate like every one else, right? It even seems unfair, to expend effort on a few individuals at the expense of the rest of the group? I can’t count the times I’ve heard “but it’s not fair to the other kids” when asking for accommodations.
Here’s the thing: inclusion means looking above your assumptions of fair and normal. It means actively trying to smooth the way to make things go as easily for these individuals as it does for their average counterparts. It means evaluating what you view as normal and seeing how it’s really not normal for everyone.
Well, that happened
I’m hurting tonight over the events of this week, and I won’t go into details. I will say that again, my kids have been painted with the broad brush of “bad kid” instead of adults working with their differences and being inclusive. It’s so easy to say “we’re inclusive!” It’s not so easy to actually translate that into practice when all you see is a kid misbehaving. If you start with the mindset of “bad kid,” you will reach the inevitable conclusion of “bad kid” despite your protestations of inclusion.
I don’t use my kids’ differences as excuses, but I do expect adults to be able to understand when a 5 and 6-year-old are struggling. Especially if I’ve educated you already on what to look for.
Being inclusive isn’t about making a few changes to your routine or your classroom. It’s about a mindset. A mindset of including everyone. Of trying to help everyone have fun and reach their potential, even if that means making your job harder. Inclusion isn’t easy. It’s not as simple as putting a ramp in at the front of the building, because what if there’s no elevator to the rest of the floors inside? It’s not a band-aid fix. It’s a mindset.
Don’t fool yourself
Don’t tell me you’re inclusive if you’re not 100% determined to include my child. I would rather skip the entire thing than disappoint my kid or re-enforce the “bad kid” message they get from so many people. Tell me you’re not equipped to handle it if that’s the truth. Be honest with me, and with yourself: because lying isn’t really inclusive, is it?
It’s hard enough for a kid to be different. Let’s not make it harder by throwing the weight of our disapproval on their shoulders. Giving them a little grace, calling in a parent to handle it, or focusing on the needs of the child over your need for obedience is always a better choice.
If inclusion is such a pain, why bother? Why make the effort to include people? Because it’s the right thing to do, just like it’s right to overcome racism, sexism, ageism, and whatever other prejudices we hold as a society. It’s giving people a voice and a place where they might not otherwise have one, and recognizing that our place there isn’t a right, it’s a coincidence.
It’s seeing each person as an individual worthy of respect. And that’s worth any amount of personal inconvenience.