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Friday, February 17, 2012

Inclusion begins at home

Janey attends an inclusion school, and I am a huge proponent of inclusion, at least for the elementary school grades. I can see a time when it might not work---I don't think Janey would get much from an algebra class, or add much to one, but in the early grades, it's nothing short of wonderful. And I would dare to say---almost more for the "regular" kids than the special needs kids. Janey's amazing teachers are helping all children in her class learn how to approach her, how to befriend her, how to appreciate her special talents, and at the same time, teaching Janey how to greet them, how to start to navigate the "regular" world. I saw the effects of inclusion on my sons, who also went to Janey's school, and I can truly stay it helped them in many ways, academically, socially and perhaps most importantly, character-wise.

I've been thinking lately about inclusion at home. It might sound like a strange notion---of course there's inclusion at home! Janey is here, part of our family, so isn't that automatic inclusion? I think it sometimes isn't. Maybe that's more so with us, because Janey is so much younger than her brothers, and the only girl, so for years, she's been set apart. She needs more attention than they do, and she hasn't always been able to join in with our fun or activities. This wasn't a choice or something we could do much about. But lately, I've felt we are finally achieving some level of family inclusion.

I keep thinking of a few recent family times. One was the Super Bowl halftime show, of which there are plenty of opinions, but we didn't see that gesture! We all watched it, all commented on it, and Janey was fully part of that. She LOVED it---she loves any kind of singing and dancing show more than anything. I felt like we were a united family---not a bunch of people helping a disabled child, but just 5 family members having fun. It was amazing. The same thing happened with the start of the Grammys. Janey enjoyed everything right along with us. We have moments like that most Friday nights---our Chinese take-out night. Janey loves the food, and we all dig in in a way that wouldn't be pretty for outsiders to witness. But it's us---our family---and Janey is a part of it all. We've had a few car rides like that lately too---one I mentioned where Freddy was trying to practice a school speech and Janey was being an annoying little sister---not an annoying autistic little sister, but just your garden variety 7 year old bugging her big brother.

I want to work to have more of these moments. A key is finding something we all enjoy. I think I'm going to seek out more music variety type shows, or perhaps watch more music videos. While we still have all 3 kids at home, which won't be that much longer, I want to do more car trips (although Freddy hates them, but that's family togetherness too---it's not a full day unless someone is hating what we are doing!) and more meals with food we all adore. It's those moments that include us all that are going to be crystalized some day in all of our minds as what a family unit is---what it means to be a family. It's not always easy to do with a disabled child, but like well-done school inclusion, it's more than worth it.

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