Yep, I said it. I am not in favor of inclusion for my child. I know there are many parents who feel just the opposite of me. They want their child to be loved and accepted for who they are. Their desire is that other typically developing children embrace their loved one. I'll be the first to admit that I too wanted that for my daughter at one time. I still do, but at a different level. My husband and I tried for years to make our child fit into the round hole of public school. Heck, even private school, if we'd had the money, would have been something we desired. The truth of the matter is that is never going to happen.
My daughter, who I love and adore to pieces, is quirky. All of her challenges: autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD and sensory processing disorder; make her stand out among other children her age. I've worked really hard to teach my daughter how to behave so she doesn't stand out, so she fits in. The only problem is she doesn't see the importance of fitting in. It's too hard for her. I know other educators and professionals have worked with her on this as well. She gets frustrated when we work on changing her before she's ready.
Her peers for their part, are not being taught to love and accept my daughter where she is at. It's just not something that parents and educators typically teach those without challenges. Sure they are taught to not look at the skin color, cultural differences or even those with outward signs of disabilities. My daughter doesn't look different than her peers. She certainly acts differently though.
When we've pushed her to make the changes she is not ready for, she shuts down. It affects every part of her life from school to home to church.
Since 4th grade my daughter has attended a school where there are children like her. It's the norm rather than the exception. She's still the quirkiest one in the bunch, but she is loved and accepted for her differences. The staff at the school are trained on how to nurture her strengths.
The only place where I place my daughter alongside he typically developing peers is at church. Even there, the other kids tolerate her. I don't get the sense that they are truly accepting her. No one goes out of their way to include my girl. I've never seen one of them invite her over to join in on the fun. There is a disconnect. I tell my daughter to look for opportunities to be a part of a group. Ask someone their name etc. Yet time and time again, I don't see this being reciprocated with her peers. I've never witnessed a child inviting my child to play a game or join in on a conversation. It's too difficult and uncomfortable for them. Maybe my daughter isn't the only one who needs to be pushed out of her comfort zone.
Parents of typically developing children tell me how this is such a difficult age for all kids. They are all struggling to find their place. That I need to be more understanding.
On the rare occasion where my child is included and made to feel welcome, it happens because there is either a sibling of a special needs child present or a parent of a special needs child facilitated it.
In the past when my child attended a public school or even participated in an extra curricular activity aimed for mainstream children, things often ended poorly. She spent her days crying in class. I was constantly being spoken to by the adults in charge. It seemed like my daughter and I were the ones who needed to change. I was told that I needed to teach my child how to belong. How to act like everyone else. What if instead mainstream parents and adults taught children to look for those who didn't fit in? Those on the outside of the circle would be a rare sighting. As a society, we have a long way to go before all differences are embraced. I'm reminded that it's been over fifty years since Rosa Parks started the civil rights movement. All these years later, society still has a way to go before people of color are accepted everywhere. As far as acceptance for those whose differences are not as evident, I'm in this battle for all for the long haul. My daughter is counting on me.
For now, the only inclusion that I'm pushing for is at our church. One day, things will change. I believe society is capable of it.