Author: Karen Copeland
In my previous post, I mentioned the importance of voices coming together to sustain, encourage and celebrate one another. Being exposed to new voices make us stronger, and I had the benefit of hearing from many new voices in Denver.
Torrie Dunlap, the Executive Director of Kids Included Together, started this amazing conference off by challenging attendees to share what #InclusionIs to them. Here is a sampling of what was shared:
As I scrolled through all the amazing responses to this question, it struck me how true the quote from British Columbian Educator, Shelley Moore at the beginning of this post is … Inclusion isn’t something we do, Inclusion is something we LIVE. It is about our attitudes and beliefs that everyone has a purpose, that we ALL matter, regardless of abilities and differences. We can try to DO inclusion, but if we do not have the basic values base that all of us belong here, how successful will we be?
Torrie Dunlap shared her journey to knowing and understanding inclusion that started from a place of being willing to learn from a boy and his mother.
Bill Henderson shared key ingredients for systems change and it starts with asking key systems leaders not if they believe in inclusion, but how they intend to demonstrate and practice inclusion. Systemic change also involves looking beyond the walls of education and bringing our communities alongside with the vision that all members are to be accepted and embraced.
Stacey Milbern, a passionate disability justice activist provided a hard hitting lesson in ableism, and the importance of not just seeing people for their potential, but believing in it.
Douglas Fisher from San Diego State University provided so many quotable quotes, I will try to capture as many as I can here:
Mr. Fisher also shared that we can’t limit a child because of our own assumptions. We need to step outside our own preconceived notions to discover ways to include. It’s the proverbial “let’s think outside the box” that needs to be our mantra, not giving up before the child even has a chance to start!
When it comes to determining what functional skills are, we have a responsibility to answer three main questions.
Is someone else already doing [this skill] for the child?
Is anyone else doing [this skill]? (for example, are the child’s classmates expected to be learning the same skill?)
Will the child do [this skill] at home?
Think about this for a minute. How we live inclusion right now is shaping our future leaders and generations. We have the opportunity to create a world where all people are accepted and embraced. I would suggest that not only do we have the opportunity, we have the responsibility to continue speaking out, to continue sharing our stories and our vision that everyone matters. Change is happening, and it is because we choose to push forward instead of giving up.
There was so much incredible learning that took place over the two days of this Inclusive Education conference. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to PEAK Parent Center for extending the invitation for me to come to Denver to share my knowledge, but also to be able to learn so deeply from such amazing people. This is an experience that I will not forget for a very long time, and I am excited to continue to be connected to this fabulous organization.