The past two weeks I’ve been working on a Holiday Gift Project with my vocational skills students. I can’t begin to tell you how excited they were when they had their first sale! It made me think about the importance of productivity in our society. Somewhere along the way, we bought into the idea that DO-ing is more important than BE-ing. Unfortunately, many times this comes with raising or lowering someone’s value to society based on what they are capable of doing/producing.
Here are some ways to promote integration in your families:
- Be part of the change. Words are so powerful! Change the term ‘disability’ to ‘different abilities’. This empowers all children!
- Have a conversation with your child about differences and the uniqueness of each of us. If you don’t discuss different abilities with them, they will get their information from other children or adults.
- It’s ok not to have all the answers and to say. “I don’t know the answer to that but let’s find out!
- ”Don’t resist when your child asks questions. Help them understand and relate to what they see. For ex: if your child asks about a peer flapping his hands, explain that it could be something that he does when he is excited and ask your child what she does when she’s excited.
- Challenge your child to see the similarities with himself and another child with different abilities.
- Create play dates or volunteer in the community. By exposing your child at a young age to all abilities, they become more comfortable with all peers.
- Your actions speak louder than words. The way you act around individuals with different abilities becomes the gateway to your child’s comfort and ease around others.
- Include books in your library that reflect inclusion and can spark interest and conversations. Praise acts of kindness and celebrate empathy. A huge rule of thumb in life is to do to others what you would like others to do to you.
It’s time that we build-in integration in the fabric of our daily lives. When we start from a young age to include all abilities, we “normalize” the experience. We turn interactions between people of ALL ABILITY levels to just that, a different ability! Not more, not less, just different