Inclusion: Give people a chance and watch them shine

Today we continue our WDSD 2022 series of blogs written by our members about what inclusion means to them. Julie Fisher writes about her experiences with her son, Darcy. You can watch Julie’s recent Ted talk about Inclusion here

Inclusion is a very broad topic, and many have different ideas of what it means to them.

We all have different ideas of where we would like to feel accepted and comfortable. To some, the main thing that comes to mind is being able to enjoy a party with a group of people playing games, dancing or whatever else it is that everyone is doing. Others will think of being accepted into a sporting group and being included in all the trainings, game day and other celebrations.

The classroom setting is a big topic when it comes to inclusion. Being able to attend school and feel comfortable with your peers. The same occurs in the workplace. We all want to be able to go to work and feel happy to go without having to worry about feeling excluded.

For me these are all important and a huge part of inclusion and acceptance, because these things are activities we will all be associated with at some point in our lives. For us, doing daily activities and feeling comfortable is so important. Things like shopping, going for a walk, catching a bus and other everyday tasks like that. Being able to do these things without worrying about people staring, pointing or making remarks because we may not fit the mould they have in their mind.

I truly do not understand why people, who we don’t even know, think it’s ok to do this and make someone feel as though they shouldn’t be there. Even with Darcy aged 15, I still see the stares, points and comments and it’s very hard not to react to some of these. I try and shelter him from this because I want him feeling comfortable wherever we go. Most days I can ignore it, or I smile and wave. Some people smile and wave back and others just turn around and walk away. Sometimes I still do react and when I do, my whole day is ruined. It’s such a negative experience. When I ignore or smile at the people, I feel better within myself. To me, rather than stare or point, wave or smile at the person if they see you looking. And as for the remarks, well, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

My son Darcy attended mainstream school in his primary years. The children at this school were remarkable and there was never any judgement toward my son at all. When he started at the school, I wrote a letter addressed to the parents and told them about Darcy. I told them about things he liked to do, his personality and the things he may need assistance with. I also told them that they should always ask us questions if they ever had any and to encourage their children to ask questions. I’m not sure if this was why everyone treated Darcy the way they did, or if, because he joined them at age 5, he was just one of their friends right from the start. In the early years, they did things for him and mothered him a little because they wanted him to feel comfortable. He was also quite little and really cute and the kids loved him. As the years went on, they began to ask if they could teach him the steps for games and other things they did as a group. When we told them yes, it was amazing to watch. These kids were so patient with Darcy, and it didn’t matter how long it took him to learn, they just kept telling him what to do until he got it.

Another example from this school was when they were doing times tables. Darcy didn’t know them, but so he was part of the group, when they sang the times tables and it came to Darcy’s turn, he would just say whatever number came next. The kids would cheer and then onto the next child who would continue with the times tables. If they didn’t do this, he would have been sitting there not participating at all and would have become quite bored. They did things like this with all the activities they did. If it needed to be altered slightly, it wasn’t a problem at all. It was easy for them to do this because they all wanted him to feel part of the group. When I used to watch all of this unfold, I could see that it wasn’t hard for them to do and it created a wonderful atmosphere within the classroom and their group.

I would then take my mind to others that had made us feel excluded. When I could see how easy these children adjusted things so Darcy could learn and feel part of the group, I wondered why others found it so hard. Even more so, I wonder why people stare, point and make remarks even when you are just out shopping. I know not everyone means anything nasty, but it still makes you feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel like I have to be on guard all the time to protect my son.

So, to us, inclusion is for my son Darcy to feel comfortable wherever he goes. I don’t want him to worry about others judging him or making him feel like he shouldn’t be there. It’s easy really… Just be kind and treat my son, and others, as they should be treated. He’s a young boy who loves football, bowling, dance, concerts, theatre and most of all, hanging out with his friends. Isn’t that what we all love to do?

Give People A Chance And Watch Them Shine