The Beauty of Inclusion

Jodi Shenal's avatar

by Jodi Shenal

Inclusion is defined as “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.” 

Being a mom to a little girl with multiple disabilities, the definition of inclusion holds a much deeper meaning to me. 

My daughter is five years old and she attends school in a PMD (Profoundly Mentally Disabled) classroom environment.

I have blogged before of how the label of PMD was originally very difficult for me to accept. If I had to label her, I would label her as beautiful, happy, determined and inspiring. 

The name of her classroom is really quite deceiving. When we walk through the door, we are greeted by the wondrous sight of interactive learning, friendship and joyfulness.  

There is a plentiful array of special equipment to help her and her equally amazing classmates to reach goals. It’s obvious that goals and achievement are very important there. 

Music fills the room and creates a light-hearted and cheerful scene. Her loving teachers give the atmosphere a warm and secure feel.

While I love this enriched classroom, and see it as her perfect safe haven, I also love the opportunity that she has each day to spend time with a typical kindergarten class. 

I have watched (with my heart bursting) kindergarten students competing to be my daughter’s “buddy.”

They help her participate in Music, Art, Physical Education and other activities that are part of the typical school day experience.

She is nonverbal, but it is truly magical to see the interaction that takes place between her and these students. 

It doesn’t matter to them that she is in a wheelchair.

They want to push her in her chair and help her roll a ball…. They laugh with her…They tell her they love her sparkly shoes….They encourage her. 

They are imparting skills and providing immeasurable teachable moments for her. All the while, she’s unknowingly teaching them valuable lessons about life, friendship and strength. 

It’s clear to see that the interchange between them is mutually rewarding. 

When I was in high school, I had the honor of working with children with special needs. The experience has remained with me throughout my life and the lessons I learned from them had a tremendous impact on my heart. 

By allowing typical children to spend time with children with special needs, I believe that kindness and compassion are strongly ingrained into them, and it builds upon their character. 

Children aren’t judgmental at that young age.  I firmly believe that opportunities like this promote sound character traits that carry on with them into adulthood.

Being embraced and included by these kindergarteners, my daughter is not treated as inferior.

She is treated as a peer and as a friend. 

The great beauty of inclusion is that remarkable abilities are realized and treasured relationships are formed. 

I am very grateful to her wonderful teachers and to the caring Kindergarten teacher who promote this idea. 

They may not realize it, but their actions are changing the world little by little, and making it a better place. 

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