I am fortunate to be connected to many great champions in my world, and today’s guest post is written by one of them, Elizabeth McWilliams-Hewitt. Elizabeth came into our lives in the past year, and her understanding, encouragement and support has meant the world to our family. Elizabeth has generously given me her permission to share her words with you, and they are important ones to be heard. Thank you Elizabeth, for writing from the heart.
Author: Elizabeth McWilliams-Hewitt, Behaviour Consultation, Education and Training
I am very angry.
In fact, I am so angry that I waited 24 hours before posting anything, but I am still angry.
Many programs, agencies and schools tell parents and their children with neuro-diversities that they are inclusive. Many try very hard to be inclusive; I give full credit to those people and organizations that continually evaluate what they are doing and ask themselves, “Are we being inclusive?”
However, there is a pattern emerging this month and it makes me so very angry and so very sad. A few school and their personnel have excluded kiddos from the Christmas productions. They have given reasons ranging from, “They won’t take direction…. they (the child) aren’t listening… they don’t know the steps… the song… the lines….” The message is that the neuro-diverse learner isn’t listening.
Why do we still continue to expect our kiddos who require extra support and accommodation, to make the changes? Why are we still expecting them to “comply” and “conform” to our standards and expectations? When did we stop focusing on the process and only look to perfection or another unachievable (and unreasonable) expectation or outcome?
I am a veteran of many Christmas productions… plays and choirs. I’ve been in a few myself! And at no time have I ever heard a parent in the audience comment how awful the show was because someone sang out of tune.. missed a step or a cue…. forgot their lines or waved at the audience instead of standing still. I have never heard an audience give critical feedback or make derogatory comments about the kiddo who moves to their own beat or uses a cue card to remember their lines. If anything, I hear parents laugh affectionately at the young guy who pulled his hat down over his eyes…. or comment on how well the young girl twirled to her own beat or laugh when the classmate pulled (aka yanked!) their friend to the correct side of the stage. I always hear the “oohs and ahhhs” and sighs of parents and audience members who think all the kids are amazing and adorable.
So, why are kiddos being excluded from such opportunities to participate in the school community? When did we get away from enjoying process and sense of sharing a holiday tradition? And, this makes me especially angry when I know kiddos who WANT to be there… who are practicing at home and asking their parents “How long until the show?”
When I hear from families that their child, who WANTS TO PARTICIPATE, is being asked to stay home, I find I am at a loss as to how to support them. I get angry and can only wonder at the anger and heartbreak the families experience when their child is not included.
I am reminded of how far away we really are from truly being inclusive. And, perhaps we are losing sight of the reason for the holiday shows…which are to share some time, to reflect on the year and to celebrate with each other the season of giving.
Perhaps our season of giving should include reflection on our sense of community and what it means to us and each other; perhaps this season we can remember to be giving and accepting to everyone.