This term used to mean "everyone gets a turn at kickball," or "we all get to have our names on the clubhouse wall." It still does, just in a different way.
It now means everyone. EVERYONE. The 10 year old with a wheelchair, the 2 year old with a speech or hearing impairment, the 5 year old with an SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder for those that don't know.).
It means we include everyone's names in our classrooms, our childcare's and our preschools. But what does it look like?
Let me tell you...
Sometimes it's magical.
There are days when the child that has an SPD and is VERY sensitive to sounds, textures, or activity levels comes up with a new game or method of doing an art project that suits him personally, because finger painting literally makes him throw up (I mean projectile!). It is an incredible moment to be part of. I stand awestruck as my little one on the "Spectrum" and non-verbal grabs a nearby car so he too can join in the painting. He came up with it himself!! This is big. BIG! It means he understands his own needs. He desires to take part. He is making a way. It is progress toward independence and it is beautiful.
I type with tears in my eyes just recalling the moment.
Then there are days...
Lord, help me there are days.
Days when my two little ones with SPD's of varying degrees plus my little on the "spectrum" are feeding off of on another's energy like the monster from Scooby Doo. You remember the one. The gang tries to zap it, catch it, feed it, starve it out. NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO IT GROWS BIGGER, and BIGGER, and BIGGER!! Any amount of energy in themselves or the environment makes it grow.
These are also the days we can't go outside because the wind chill is zero.
I think about going out anyway. I think about taking up smoking. I wonder if I should put the Betty Ford Clinic on speed dial. (I am JOKING!!)
These are days when parents pick up their children and I have to wonder if they think I am losing my mind!! These are the days when I feel like I just might be!
Then I research. I read. I pray. I reflect. I remember the good times. I recall the magical moments. I welcome a new day.
Who knows what it will bring?
Here is what I know.
Inclusive environments are good for children. It is o.k. for me to help children see each other as "not the same" as themselves AND the same. It helps them understand why one child gets a peanut butter and jelly for every meal (because that is literally all he will eat) or he will go hungry to the point of pain. (Spectrum remember.)
It is o.k. for parents picking up to see the good moments and the bad. They have them at home too. We are all in the same boat. In those moments they get to witness, first hand, that Ms. Donna won't duct tape them to a wall. I may chase, use my "firm" voice, even hold one on my hip and one by the hand to keep them from literally climbing a wall and jumping from the trim (I have one that can do this, no joke).
And we will come out of it. We will all survive together. It is good for children to see other children not being "happy" at all times and know that everything will turn out o.k. We get through it together; the tantrums, tears, meltdowns, crazy, excited times. We do it all TOGETHER because we are a family. When one of us hurt, we all hurt. When one is happy, we are all happy. We celebrate, grow, and learn together.
But what about the times we have to say goodbye? Those days when we realize that a little one's needs exceed our ability to maintain a safe environment or maintain safety for that one child or their friends?
Those days are the most challenging in my role as Childcare Provider, parent advocate and friend, "day-mom," because you know what? I grow to love each and every child that crosses my path. I pray for them. I think about them. I research on their behalf. I study. I read. I try what the experts say, "This works everytime!" (and then it doesn'.t). I realize that it isn't providing lasting effects for a child.
I stress, have headaches, and morn decisions that mean we will no longer be able to be part of that child's life on a daily basis. I dream about that child. I dream for that child. My heart aches when circumstances or challenges or job statuses mean that a child will be leaving us.
Why? Because we are family and it's hard to say goodbye. So, I say, "See you soon." I say, "We love you." I say, "I wish you well." The hard truth is that not every teacher, classroom, environment, or school is going to be able to meet the needs of each child.
But we try and we try and we try...
Sometimes progress comes from change. Sometimes it means hard conversations with tears, doctor after doctor visits for little ones looking for answers, and holding a mama's hand when she is at the end of her rope and saying, "I see you. You are amazing. You are strong."
It is being willing to admit that you don't have the answers to what they are facing, but you wish you with every fiber you did. Be willing to sit silently while that mama cries....
Isn't that what matters most, being there for each other in the changes, the challenges, the easy times and the crazy ones even when you don't have the answers, especially when you don't have the answers just so they aren't alone?
I think it is...
I wish bubbles and suckers made everything o.k., don't you?
As always, I wish you well and I hope you get to play today. - L
Life is made of moments...
"There isn't anything more full of hope, joy and peace than a child's smile... It captures the mundane and makes it extraordinary." - LaDonna Woolsey
I am a Mother Goose Time Blogger. I decided to become one after trying their products because I they are comprehensive and serve my mixed age group well. I do receive products to review from Mother Goose Time and do so with my own honest and thorough opinions. For more information, please contact me at Ladonna@woolseyacademy.com