Inclusion Matters to Everyone!

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From Jim Comstock-Galagan –

If you want people to understand the matter of inclusion, you make them understand it for themselves.

How would inclusion relate to them?

Jim understood when his mother first walked him to elementary school.  He was told he could not attend – he needed to go across town to the “crippled children’s school.”

Jim’s mother said, “I’m telling you, he is NOT going to crippled children’s school.” Inclusion mattered to Jim’s family.

Jim knew he was not going to the crippled children’s school – the only school he knew he would attend was college.

His family adjusted so he could attend a Catholic school nearby.

“Why can I not go to school with my brothers?” Jim wondered. He was sad.

“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King.

So Jim’s family adjusted again. They sacrificed and struggled in order to allow all the brothers to go to the same Catholic school.

Jim says he is here today because – inclusion is really important.

Words to describe the feeling of being “included”:

  • belonging,
  • value,
  • acceptance,
  • happy…

This is what children feel when they are included.

Words that might describe feeling excluded, segregated:

  • rejected
  • hurts in the pit of your stomach
  • inadequate
  • devastating
  • abandoned
  • unsupported
  • resentment…

What does this feel like for kids who are excluded?

How do kids feel when they are stuck in the trailer, in the room down the hall, when they are segregated from others?

What do the other kids say about these kids? “We never see them.”

We need to be aware of how we are educating kids, kids with and those without disabilities.

Inclusion Matters to Everyone!

Doesn’t everyone have human limitations? We all need and have accommodations.

Accommodations are the DNA of community life. We all need accommodations to be included.

Things are only perfectly good for people with disabilities when they are perfectly good for everyone else.

Schools use 17-20 accommodations in classrooms so that teachers (like Jim’s wife) can teach.  What happens when the school is asked to provide several accommodations for a child with disabilities?

Part of being a good advocate is to create the connection between a child, the principal, the school attorney, the IEP Team.

Make people see these issues in ways that would “not be OK” for them. Passion and emotion count!

No one should be comfortable when they propose to segregate a kid.

Inclusion matters to everyone!

Jim Comstock-Galagan is the former Executive Director of the Southern Disability Law Center (SDLC), New Orleans, LA and a faculty member at W&M Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA).

Jim shares his own story as he explains how his personal experience shapes who he is today.

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Inclusion is important because us ‘regular’ people deserve the opportunity to learn how to cheerfully face the work we ALL need to do on ourselves. We need examples of determination and we need to see how ALL personal challenges create strengths and build character. My favorite Jim quote, “Get over it!”


You would think we would be past this as a society. I just responded today to a person who stated the solution to the school’s budget issues is to quit spending “thousands of dollars on students with disabilities who will never be productive citizens.” His idea was that they should be “given good care but not in our schools.” It is hard to imagine people still think like that.


Sadly we are not. It might be 2017 but people are still thinking back to the day where students with disabilities were segregated from their peers. They would like it to stay that way but inclusion is the way. I myself believe in inclusion. Students can all learn from each others and the students with disabilities can thrive with the right supports. Hopefully more people will start to see inclusion as a good thing.


I think another way to help students feel included is to make sure that you address them as an individual with a certain disability rather than a disabled person. For example, “a student with autism” rather than “an autistic student.”

Additionally, a program that helps with inclusion is co-teaching as it helps keep students in the least restrictive environment with their general education peers.

Pam Wright

Inclusion may require a little creative problem-solving, not one-size-fits-all programs. It helps if administrators and educators WANT to make it work and work toward that goal.

From the New York Times:

“The poets were right about the chill of isolation and rejection — more, perhaps, than even they knew: when a person feels lonely or is being excluded by others, his or her skin literally becomes colder.”

Just more data that underscores the need for inclusion and acceptance. I’ll be referencing this research as I advocate for individuals with disabilities.


Good article, Hadassah. Thanks for posting the link. ~ Pam