Early Inclusion is Belonging

My passion, my platform, is that early inclusion of all children is fundamental- it gives the children the feeling that yes, they belong in this world, and have value.  I have seen the value of early inclusion in my two sons- both have different abilities and disabilities, and both had good early inclusion experiences, which let them know that yes, they belong. They carried this feeling of belonging with them, through school and beyond, and now as adults, they know they have value at a core level, even with their disabilities.  They will advocate for what they need, as they know that their disability is just one part of what they are, and what they offer.   All children should have this feeling of belonging- and it was all brought into focus for me on Friday last week. 

4 different colored people icons holding hands in a circle.

I was giving a presentation on Early Inclusion and Assistive Technology tools and strategies that can help, to a group of preschool aides and teachers.  This was a group that was just learning about the inclusion of children with disabilities, so I started the presentation by explaining why I was passionate about the need for, and benefits of, early inclusion.  I emphasized that good early inclusion experiences translated to belonging for the children, and carries them through preschool, and beyond.

After my presentation, a woman came up and said she had to personally thank me.  She was a black woman, 66 years old.  She indicated that as a young child, she was often excluded, due to the color of her skin.  That no longer happens, but, she has to work hard now, to not exclude herself.  She had learned, at that very young age, how to be excluded- and now has to work hard at not excluding herself.  What I had said about the value of those early learning inclusion experiences rang very true for her, and she had the lived experience of what it feels like as an adult to have been excluded at those young ages.

I thanked her for coming up.  Then, I sat with what she said all weekend.  She was an intelligent woman, still working and learning at 66, and yet she was still feeling the effects of not being fully included as a young child.  The importance of good, early inclusion experiences can not be emphasized enough.  All children belong, and they need to know that they belong.  Only once they feel that belonging, can they truly shine, and bring their gifts out for all to see.  And yes, they are willing to work harder if needed.  

I did not get that woman’s name, but I want to thank her- she has really given me a fresh perspective on the importance of early inclusion and belonging. 

“The social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress and other behavioral issues. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient, often coping more effectively with difficult times in our lives.”   https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/is-having-a-sense-of-belonging-important 

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