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.

  1. My sons school knows nothing about inclusion. They don’t care. My son has autism and works twice as hard as other kids. They have awards ceremonies to honor the honor roll students and he never gets recognized. It’s not fair! They won’t make these events inclusive and my son is shutting down. It broke my heart to see other kids cheering each other on while my son was crying.

    • Francis, I feel you on the awards ceremonies. They are not inclusive at all and remind my son who is Autistic that he has to work twice as hard. Yet he is not rewarded for that. I have now learned that there will be an award ceremony in December and those kids will be rewarded for their work on Thursday complete with a pizza and ice cream party and given a trip on Friday. My son is not invited to be a part of the awards. It breaks my heart. I am happy for those kids. Don’t get me wrong but my son should be celebrated for his hard a well. I have talked to the school and the school board they will do nothing. I am so heartbroken for him. He will be stuck at school while the other kids get to have a fun trip.

  2. Inclusion is important and we have made strides in inclusion within schools. However, we are not doing enough in my view. Inclusion needs to happen outside of school as well. Our kids are a part of society and should not be banned from Birthday parties and play dates. Parents of non-disabled kids need to deal and accept this. We just want inclusion and we want friendships. We need these things so that our kids have confidence in themselves. I wish it were a law to make play dates inclusive. Not being included tells our kids that they don’t matter. They are not valued. that is not true. Parents of non-disabled kids you need to deal with this and teach your children inclusion.

    • Why is your child’s rights greater than mine? Why does my child have to include your? It is not the law and it never will be. I am tired of this notion that my son has to suck it up and include your child. You need to teach you kids that sometimes your not always going to be invited to parties and play dates. What happened to freedom of association?

      • Sunny, we do teach our kids the word no but we also need to teach inclusion. Why can’t our kids be invited to parties and to hang out? We want friendships and peer interaction. You still have freedom of association we just are asking for a bit of inclusion. Maybe your child should be a bit humble and learn to interact with kids who are different then him. My son is excluded so much it breaks my heart. He does not deserve this. Surely your child could deal with a child like mine for a couple of hours. I had parent get upset and their child did not have a good time at their party. Oh well the child made a decision to not have a good time. Your child needs to get over it and deal with it.

  3. Inclusion does matter yet my son is excluded. Kids won’t play with him. He was separated from peers. He had to face the wall or work in a closet. What does that tell him? That he does not matter and what he wants does not count. He does not matter. He is scarred because of this. He has anxiety and I changed his school to a private school.

  4. Inclusion is not just for the school setting its should be done outside of school as well. Parents of non-disabled kids its time to invite us over for a play date or to hangout. Our kids want so much to feel like they are part of something. They want the friendships and your children would be getting a wonderful lesson. Invite them to birthday parties we can give you tips on how to accommodate them. Stop excluding us. Our children know when they are not wanted and its hurts us and them.

    • Great message that everyone needs to remember, and act on!! Hope you are sharing this in other forums, and ways.

    • I so agree with this Marilyn. Our children want so much to feel like they are a part of something. They want friendships. Its hard having to tell my son why he is not invited. I do keep him in extra curricular activities to help him interact with non-disabled kid. One time he was invited to a birthday party and the parent of birthday child fumed because she felt that her son’s birthday was ruined. Like really my son was sharing his love for dinosaurs. Some of these non-disabled kids are going to have a hard time if they can’t deal with a child who is different.

  5. Tragically in 2020 some still have the midst that children with disabilities should be segregated. My sons school is like that. They do not believe in inclusion at all. My son was voted out of his general education classroom by both students and their parents. Its so sad that they are doing this. I always hear my tax dollars are paying for the school. I believe I pay taxes too. In fact I often think I should be paying more in taxes because my son needs additional services. School will not change his setting by to inclusion. I keep fighting and feel like I am hitting a brick wall.

  6. 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!”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    • 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.

    • Except autism is not a disability but a neurotype. It’s not a disease, it’s not a disability. Most of the community prefers to be called autistic.

  9. 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.

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