I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time now. It is a lovely story which might brighten up your day in these uncertain times!
I teach six wonderful little boys with ASD in a wonderful little school in Dublin.
This is a story about one little girl who changed everything for some of the kids in my class.
Inclusion is a wonderful and essential thing, but it is unfortunately not always the norm. Which is sad, but true. We talk about inclusion, we write about inclusion, but just follow any mothers of children with ASD on-line and you will see from their experiences that inclusion isn't always there in our society. For inclusion to be true inclusion, it shouldn't even be a term, I shouldn't even be writing about it, it should just exist if that makes sense! I am not living in an idealistic world where all children want to be included, I know some children don't want to be, and that is just fine. We always have to think,
- Is it really in the child's best interest or is it because we believe in inclusion?
- Are there children who would be better off in a service that has a full therapeutic team and the resources to support the family and deal with challenging behaviour?
- Are there children with ASD who cannot cope with the stimulation of mainstream school life?
But it is not the case for all children. Anyway, this little girl who is only seven/eight asked one day if she could play with the boys in my class on yard. I said of course, and off she went, playing away, holding their hands, letting them take the lead, and being insightful enough at such a young age to understand that the boys may not answer or always respond to her. So as the weeks went on, this trail blazer of a child changed everything. Little by little, more and more children starting playing with the boys in my class and now it is just a thing, it is just the norm that some of the boys run out to yard and play away and interact for the whole break!
If you have worked with children with ASD, you'll understand the enormity of this! It is always one of the main targets on every IEP plan, that a child will integrate , will make eye contact, will enage in social interactions. And so this little girl, has helped some children tick every social target off their IEP!
It is truly astonishing the difference a few months can make. For some children who didn't mind either way about going out to yard, or went out and just watched, or played their own little games, to get excited at hearing the bell, run down the corridor, and run up to other children and take them by the hand to play- is just the most AMAZING thing to watch unfold.
The children in my school now are playing games with the boys, counting with them, running, jumping, skipping, talking with, and everyone knows children respond more to children than adults. So I am really, really proud of all the children in my school, particularly this one little girl who made it all happen. I am quite sure at her young age that she doesn't understand the enormity behind her simple act of kindness and the difference it has made, to both the children in my class and the school as a whole. One child who is pre-verbal even said her name one day, as clear as could be when I said we were going out to yard! So there you go, the little but big things that happen in a primary school yard!
These are just some of the benefits of true inclusion:
Increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences.
Increased understanding and acceptance of diversity.
Respect for all people.
Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society.