I was fortunate to once again be invited to participate in an Inclusive Class podcast. The hosts, Nicole and Terri, changed the format this year to roundtable discussions. This meant that I had the opportunity to chat with not only Nicole and Terri, but also with Torrie Dunlap, the CEO of Kids Included Together (KIT). It made for a dynamic discussion and it continues to be a pleasure for me to learn from like-minded individuals who care deeply about inclusion and inclusive education.
Listen to the full show: Inclusion Doesn’t Happen Down the Hall
The two things that are resonating most significantly with me are the title of today’s show: Inclusion Doesn’t Happen Down the Hall and the idea that Torrie raised of “meaningful inclusion”.
I love today’s title, because I often write and speak about the idea that inclusion is not a program. It’s not a classroom in the school or a person or a single event. Rather, inclusion is an attitude, a mindset, a way of thinking about and acting toward others. I work hard to help people realize that there needs to be a culture of inclusion that everyone in a school, community or organization shares. Inclusion will not be successful when it is relegated to one space, one point in time or is given over as one person’s responsibility.
The idea of authentic, or as Torrie suggested, meaningful inclusion, is one that can be hard for people. None of us can determine what meaningful is or means for anyone else - in any area of life. And yet, when it comes to disabilities, this is often exactly what happens. We talk a lot about meaningful engagement in the Jewish world, both with and without discussion of disability inclusion. And what I always come back to is that “meaningful” is unique to each person - so we, as a community, have to be ok with what each person deems as his/her own meaningful engagement, whether we agree or not.