Inclusion begins with honesty.
If I gloss over the differences between people, my child will be confused by the discrepancy between what he sees and what he hears from me, and will intuit that difference is something shameful, something not to be spoken of.
Inclusion begins with knowledge.
Last week we watched a friend’s three children for a few hours at our home, one of whom is severely autistic. One of his favorite things to do is to take things apart (things like Duplo creations)… which was understandably frustrating for Rondel, who is very particular about his creations and gets worked up if anyone even gets too close to them. They were building together when the inevitable happened, and when I separated them Rondel told me that he didn’t like his friend “at all.”
But when I explained to him why his friend was behaving that way – that his brain was developing differently and he was in a lot of ways similar to Aubade as far as impulse control and the kinds of activities he enjoyed – it made sense to him, and he was able to adjust the way he played to accommodate those differences. Having that knowledge helped him to more fully include his friend.
Inclusion begins with presence.
One of the reasons I offered to watch my friend’s children (besides the fact that she needed someone urgently at the last minute) was that I want my children to spend time with people who aren’t like them: people of different ethnicities, people with physical disabilities, people with neurodivergences, people of different ages. It isn’t actually inclusive to sit around and talk about equality and opportunity and diversity if you aren’t living it out by filling your community with all types of people. I want my children to know from lived experience that even people who face incredible physical and mental challenges are just people, with their own needs and preferences and personalities, with their own unique strengths and weaknesses and quirks.
Inclusion begins with me.
Because my attitude and my choices determine the environment in which my children grow up, I have to shape it into one of acceptance and love. This is not necessarily easy for my introverted self, but I believe it is critically important for the future of our society and communities for inclusion to become part of the fabric of our everyday life and personal relationships. It begins here, in my home and in your home.