Hi! I'm Tameka and I have three beautiful girls: Luna, Evely and Skye.
Evely is a 5 year old with several diagnoses including bilateral anophthalmia (born without eyes), microcelphaly, CHD, hypotonia, epilepsy and sensory processing disorder. Her genetic disorder is unknown. She is a wheelchair user, she's fed and hydrated with a g-tube, she doesn't use words to communicate. She loves music, bouncing on the trampoline, playing in the pool, listening to nature sounds and playing with her sisters.
Inclusion. As a mother of a medically complex child with disabilities, this subject comes up often. Although it shouldn't be, talking about other people's differences with children can be extremely awkward. BUT, if you're a parent who wants to raise children with a deep capacity for inclusion, kindness and empathy, these conversations are necessary.
And while myself and my girls prefer questions rather than stares and are 100% ok with answering questions from children and adults about Evely, inclusion starts at home. Kids don't generally slow down enough to play with my sweet girl and when they do, they're often praised for it because she is a disabled person rather than the friendship itself. Evely can't see but, she can still hear and feel.
Improvement is easy and change always starts with us. The more we work on ourselves, the easier it will be to be sensitive to others and the more natural operating in an inclusive way will be.
Think of a subject that you are very educated in. Think about the confidence you have when speaking on that subject. Knowledge is power! So, educate yourself first. Allow your children to see and hear you be kind, empathetic and confident when talking about disabilities. Even if they ask a question you don't know the answer to. Be confident that you'll find an answer for them.
The short-term goal is to establish basic literacy about disability, respect, empathy, etc.
The medium-term goal is to learn inclusive behaviors and language.
The long-term goal is using inclusive language and practicing inclusive behaviors.
A great way to start exposure at home is through books. Regularly seeing and reading about disabilities will not only make disabilities familiar but, will also give your children the confidence to speak, play and make new friends.
Here's a few recommendations to get you started:
Keep your eyes open. Maybe one day a book about disabilities will be by an author you recognize. 😉 Inclusion is simple, and doesn't need to be made complicated.
Everyone should be included because everyone has something powerful, inspiring, and impactful to contribute. When we exclude people, we are only hurting our communities as a whole because we are losing out on the experiences, wisdom and gifts that disabled people bring to the table.
The more we include everyone, the better and stronger our world becomes.