When inclusion happens, it is the most beautiful thing to witness. As a parent of a neurodiverse child, it can be painful to watch your child excluded from activities. This last April I got to witness my daughter included in sleepaway camp with her peers, and it was heartwarming to see.
As a parent, I long for a time when activities are structured from the outset with all kids in mind. If we planned activities to meet the needs of children with disabilities, we would ultimately meet all childrens needs in the process. Unfortunatly, this isn't always the case. Inclusion is a word that we tend to throw around, but it is a concept that we actually don't see enough of in our community.
We started preparing for outdoor school back in the fall with my daughter's school team. There were times that I was jealous that the other parents didn't have to have endless meetings just so their child could attend the camp. But I kept telling myself that camp was in my child's best interest, and therefore I would endure the meetings to ensure she had the most successful experience. We navigated a few bumps in the road and ultimately ended up with a plan that included her sharing a cabin with peers and her support staff. This was a major win in our books.
That first night of her gone, we kept our phones close. A part of us were unsure that this was going to work. By 6pm, our older kids were outside playing and we were sitting in the kitchen. We looked at each other and noted the silence in the house. Typically silence meant something was happening that needed our immediate attention, but on this particular night, it meant nothing more than quiet. In all honesty, we didn't know what to do with ourselves. We chatted over a glass of wine trying to focus on something other than the children that were all happy and out of the house.
Our daughter did amazing at camp. This was in huge party due to her support workers that accompanied her and helped her navigate the social situations at camp. She got to pet the animals at the farm, have a campfire, and even won the silly face contest!
This experience was so successful that we are actually considering sleepaway summer camp for a few days, which is never something we thought may be a possibility prior.
It's a beautiful thing when all children get to participate in their community. It's something that as a parent of two children with autism that I have started to pay more attention to, to advocate for, and to hope that we as a community take notice and do better. Our kids deserve to be with their peers and to have the same experiences that other children get to have. I long for a day when inclusion isn't the exception, but the norm. But for today, I will relish in this win.
To learn more about the community that the author has created at This World's Ours Centre in Vancouver, visit the website at www.thisworldsours.com