Let’s Talk About Inclusion…

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Ok momma bears…..let’s just throw it all out there. I want this to be a resource and jumping off point to share about what works for our kids. You know the ones…the ones with special needs. ❤

I know that each of us feel differently and very STRONGLY about what this should look like in our child’s world today. My own opinions vary depending on the circumstance.

I can’t say that I have a definitive stance that I can stand on without wavering. Each part of our lives looks different.

Can I give you a few examples?

First, up sports.

Some moms want their child to participate in the regular local sports activities, whether through the city or the school system. Moms want these organizations to be inclusive and accepting of their child and for their child to have the same opportunities as typical children.

Some moms want their child to participate in a special needs program of sorts…maybe something like Special Olympics or a separate program/sport just for children with special needs. In this type of program, our children could get specialized training and have a chance to shine.

Maybe both of those sound good to you. Maybe you want your child to participate with his peers but then also have access to something like Special Olympics.

In our lives, sports equals ballet right now for my little girls (both have Down syndrome).

We have an amazing local classical ballet program. The thought never entered my mind that my girls would not attend classes there. I don’t expect them to create a special needs class. I want to see my girls participate with their peers.

But I also know how this will need to play out. Physically, it will take them longer to achieve the objectives. We have decided that they will spend an extended time in each class. So this was their first year. Next year they will attend the same exact class instead of moving up with their typical peers.

Am I ok with this as a momma? Yep. I want to see them be successful. I think it could take them two, possibly three years to accomplish the goals for that particular level class.

What if a special needs class was offered? Hmmmmm…..I’m not sure. I’ve seen friends whose little ones attend a self-contained ballet class and absolutely love it.

I can see how both ways would have merit. In this case, we feel good about the decision we have made for our girls.

So how do you make sports work best for your family?  What frustrates you?  What positive experiences have you had? Is sports not an option for you at this point with your child who has special needs?

What about school?

My brother, who happens to have cerebral palsy, grew up in a self contained classroom in the local public school system.

Today many parents fight for inclusion and do not support a self-contained classroom. I can see the benefits of both.

In some locations, there are entire school dedicated to serving children with special needs.

We homeschool so I don’t feel like I can speak strongly either way on this topic. I do know we have to fight for what is best for our child on a case by case basis.

Many kids today, with the help of an aide or other accommodations, are thriving with their peers in a typical classroom setting.

What about you? Do you want your children in class with their peers or a more self-contained environment based on their needs? What frustrates you? What positive experiences have you had?

How about church?

Do you want your children to stay with their peers as they grow or do you want them to stay in a  classroom more suited to their actual abilities?

Do you want your children to be included in all activities with their peers or do you want ministries to be labeled as “special needs” and serve our children in that manner?

In the beginning, with our youngest, I wanted her to be where she was safest. For us, this meant that she stayed in the nursery class longer than her peers. When they started sitting up, walking, running…I didn’t want her to get trampled.

At some point, I think around age two, it became important to me for her and her newly adopted sister, to be in a classroom with her peers. They struggled. They could not do all the things their classmates could do and it was beginning to show.

My desire for them at that point was to have a one-on-one aide (maybe two-on-one in our case) for their church classes. Someone to help them navigate the activities, change their diapers (most of their friends were learning to potty train) and help ensure their safety in the class environment.

What are your thoughts about navigating the church environment with your child with special needs? Do you want special programs just for them? Do you want them to instead be included consistently with their peers? Is church not an option for you because of your child with special needs?  What frustrates you? What positive experiences have you had?


Navigating in the world as a parent is difficult. Having a child with special needs, adds to the number of decisions we make on a  daily basis, doesn’t it? Who would have thought there would be so many decisions! Everyone has a different perspective and I can’t wait to hear from you! Please check for comment block below or scroll up top to leave a comment on this post!

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Inclusion…

  1. I think each child is an individual and should be treated accordingly. Inclusion isnt for everyone. Some children do not excel in that type environment. My child is in an inclusive education setting. It works for him. He is in an special needs dance class. He thrives there also. I don’t think a typical setting would suit him in that situation. He thrives with his personal helper with teachers that understand him .
    I think we, as parents, can do a lot of harm putting merit into what others are doing for their child. (to our child , our selves and other parents.) Our Children are individuals and should be treated as such.

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  2. Church is our biggest struggle. There are times I feel that there are soooo many activities that are “just” activities. In that case, I don’t think it is even worth the effort. There are also activities our children just CAN NOT do, whether it be from medical/special needs or from orphanage behaviors. I spend more time trying to explain why they can’t, when really I would just like some grace or a “pass” without judgement. I feel we’ve completely withdrawn from so much of what we used to do before adoptions. Basically we’ve excluded ourselves and started church hopping. When your child has a very complex heart repair, he can’t afford to be around germs, even at church. (Typical sicknesses before and post surgery would have been deadly.) When that happened, we just were forgotten, basically. Out of sight, out of mind. Sorry for my negative comment.

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  3. Church can be hard. I love our church. However, when we brought our daughter (almost 4) home from China and she couldn’t even roll over. It was tough for her to fit in. Three years later, at almost 7, she is still nonverbal, nonambulatory, and has an imoperable malignant brain tumor. It took two years for her to fit in well. People were afraid to care for her. The workers are not teachers who have the training and knowlege to feel comfortable caring for a child with her needs. Now, she has an assistant every Sunday. This year, 7 people volunteered for that role and they rotate one week at a time. It wss hard to wait it out but as orphanage behaviors decreased and she became more comfortable, so did they.
    School has always been easy for us. My daughter is the princess of her school! The staff love her and the kids are so protective of her. She thrived in kindergarten this year. She learned so much that we made the decision to leave her in kindergarten next year. Is 7 too old for kindergarten? Not when it is the best placement for her. This mama will leave her in kindergarten until she’s 9 if that is what she needs! Not only has she benefited from being included, her peers have too. They see the incredible personality and spunk she has and have learned that she is a treasure. This life lesson will benefit us all in the future.

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  4. Apparenrtly it is difficult for me to put exactly into words my thoughts on this! I have started my comment 4 times! I guess I lean toward full inclusion on all fronts. Maybe it’s because Seth has no medical needs. However I do always get fearful of his wandering/running away propensity & so know that an adult has to be watching out for him in open-air or open door type situations. Plus the fact he is still mostly non-verbal, gives me pause to who he is left with. We haven’t had any issues with our church, other than I need to change his diaper if needed. But we also don’t have Awana or VBS or another like program to contend with. At school, I really want Seth fully included in the gen Ed classroom at his ‘home’ school. I see no reason why it cannot be accomplished for him with a classroom para. I know that full inclusion may not be best for all kiddos with special needs but I sure do wish it could be attempted first and then move away from that as needed. The benefits for the typical kids in the classroom as well as those with SN is far reaching. Right now in prek, our experience has been most positive. Seth is learning in what seems to be a co-teaching environment with a spec Ed teacher working alongside the gen Ed teacher with him & the other 3 kiddos in the class with SN & 7 typical kiddos. I do get a bit frustrated with his speech & PT being pull out but I also do see some benefit in getting him to focus, so I’m torn on that one for now! We aren’t much of a sports minded family so that hasn’t been an issue. If Seth does find a sport that interests him then I hope to find a way for him to participate in the same way my girls would but with some support if needed. But I also hope to get him involved in Special Olympics. I guess I look at that dual involvement in the same way as if one of the kids were to be on an all star team because they are great at their sport. SO could be a chance/place to shine in the same way all stars might be. Obviously none of this is linear nor easily generalized for every child. I just wish that our society would accept all kids right where they are, presume competence in all things & then support them in moving along that competence ladder.

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