The Power of Inclusion

Ask any parent of a child with disabilities or special/additional needs, and they will tell you that they want their kid to be happy and to be included. We don’t care if they are academically excelling, we want them to be happy.

When I first started noticing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) traits in my tiny baby back in 2016, I was worried for his future if he had asd. When the gap between him and his peers became even more noticeable around a year and a half to two years old, I was worried that he would be left out.

When he was 2-3 years old I was concerned he may not be well received by his peers or their parents because he hadn’t yet been invited to many parties. Not that he would have noticed. He was oblivious to things like that. He didn’t notice if his peers were playing something and he was on his own.

When he turned 3 we held a big party for him. I originally hadn’t wanted to have a party at all but he was becoming more aware that birthdays mean a party and cake. So he wanted to have a party, a Mack truck party. The reason it was a big party was because we wanted to include all children from his daycare. We didn’t want anyone to be left out. And it ended up being such a fun day meeting all of the kids and their parents.

He’s been to quite a few parties in the last year. He’s loved them. But I don’t think he’s realised how much it has made me so happy to see him so happy.

Because of covid there haven’t been many parties or events to attend, but tomorrow he’s invited to a party for one of his good friends at daycare. Let’s call his friend Harold (I won’t use the child’s real name to protect their identity and privacy).

Tonight as I was putting Jeremiah to bed, I was holding his hand as we do every night, and he was getting those sleepy eyes. I said to him, “tomorrow morning you are going to Harold’s party.” I wish I could have taken a photo that would show this image that next happened. With those sleepy eyes staring at the ceiling, a giant tooth-filled smile swept across his face and his eyes lit up. That smile stayed there for at least a minute and then he drifted off to sleep. And I sat there holding his hand and trying my best to hold back the happy tears. My kid is included. And that makes me the happiest mother in the world. To see that response brought overwhelming tears of joy to my heart and eyes.

Yeah, the flash also kinda woke him up a little as I tried to capture him lying there smiling that beautiful toothy grin.

Last year he was invited to a beautifully small birthday party. The parents of this party decided to have it where they did instead of having it at a jumping place that they were going to have it because (at the time) Jeremiah couldn’t yet jump. When I found out that they had cared that much about my kid, I’ll admit, there were so many happy tears. I don’t ever expect anyone to change plans or invite him just for the sake of it, but when parents are so thoughtful that they really, truly want to include him, and go above and beyond…wow. That totally blew me away with that type of thoughtfulness and consideration. That type of parenting is going to raise a generation of inclusive leaders who truly are incredible and will be world changers.

Never underestimate the power of inclusion. Especially for children who are different. They have to work twice as hard as other kids to fit in, to be liked and accepted. And when they are included, it not only makes the child so happy, but the parents too.

I read so many posts on autism pages where the child with asd has been the only one excluded from a child’s party, or where they held a party and no one turned up. To me, that often says more about the parents/how kids are raised than the child.

We are so blessed to live in a beautiful community where children are taught to be kind. The kids here are so lucky to be in a community that is kind. Where acceptance is valued and actually encouraged. Jeremiah’s daycare educators are incredible and have created an extended family for every child that attends and for their families. I think this has helped with the inclusion and acceptance for all children by each child. The focus is on the friendships and the things kids do well rather than the ways kids might stand out.

So to all of the parents and educators who have accepted and included my child wholeheartedly, thank you! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

Children with disabilities, special needs or additional needs all want the same thing, to be loved, accepted and included. Imagine a world where we all did exactly this. This world would be a better place.

Tonight I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face, just like my little boy did, because I know he’s going to be okay. He’s included, he’s loved and he’s accepted which makes him happy.

My happy boy.