Yesterday while waiting what seemed like forever to see Hannah’s optometrist at the Childrens Hospital I got talking to a lovely couple and their beautiful young daughter. If you know me then you know I don’t sit with my head down, minding my own business in waiting rooms or in life in general. I talk to people, especially when it seems that they walk a similar path to our family. That coupled with the fact that Hannah is no more a wallflower than I am, we tend to make lots of new connections when we are out and about.
We spoke about lots of things including battles for help, being listened to, their experience with the “system” and generally life as the parents of children made just a little bit different.
They told me of their daughters history and some of the stuff she had faced but also of the wonderfully inclusive community they live in. Their daughter, almost a teenager, lives with Cerebral Palsy and is non verbal (although she communicated very well when we happened to talk about Ice Cream). She is in mainstream school and has a wonderful circle of Neuro typical friends who adore her. They then told me quite possibly the most beautiful story of being included by her peers that I have ever heard. It gave me goosebumps and tears all at the same time.
A few weeks ago before the schools broke up for the summer, they had their school trip which was a day out at the local beach. One of the girls friends announced that she had used her pocket money to buy a paddling pool because she knew that this little girl wouldn’t be able to go in to the sea and she didn’t want her to miss out. (Crying yet?? It gets better). On the day of the school trip her entire class created a chain between the pool and the edge of the water and ferried buckets of water up and down to fill this paddling pool for their classmate.
Wow, just wow. These children didn’t need to be instructed, guided or told what to do. Not one adult gave them the idea of how to keep this little girl, they worked together to ensure she was included, because what good would it be, if everyone went to the beach and didn’t get to experience the water. Especially in the weather we’ve experienced lately in Scotland.
Children don’t need to be taught inclusion, they instinctively know that no one should be left behind and have an incredible creativity for solutions that mean everyone is fully included.
It makes me wonder, where along the way do we lose this creativity and innocence that everyone belongs? Is there a certain point that there is a shift in the way we think and we just forget all that we instinctively knew?
I’m not saying that in general people intend to exclude others on any grounds, but somewhere along the way we lose that natural ability we had as kids to see the world in glorious technicolour and instead the lines become muddied and we end up excluding those that need included most of all.
We go from complete inclusion to integration to complete segregation. Why now do we have to battle so hard to go back the way and rediscover that natural instinct we had as children. Maybe it’s time we all awaken our inner child and make sure everyone can join in.
The solution is simple. Ask what it would take to include the person, not just so they are present but so they are fully included and participating, it may need some creativity and the eyes of a child but the entire experience will be richer for it. It also means that one of the legacies we leave our children will be to NEVER lose the ability to see the world in technicolour.