Inclusion conversations should not discriminate
My son is trying to understand what he is overhearing in conversations between my husband, my family, and me. He is five so he picks up a lot of what he hears, but doesn’t quite “get it” completely yet. This makes it even more difficult, as he is forming his own ideas about what it means, and he is attaching his own fears and worries to it. He hears things like, “riots, protests, windows being smashed, people stealing, and police” and these words sound very, very scary. This is so foreign to him and outside of what he knows. As a child, he believes in all that is good, kind, fair, right, and just, until he learns otherwise. It is up to us, as his parents, to help him to always carry himself and uphold these ideas, and if he sees otherwise in the world, help him to know how to change it.
I was a special educator for 10 years in the K-12 schools, and now I work hard to teach and prepare future special education teachers. I know the education system well and I know how to advocate for those with a disability. My husband and I work hard to teach my son about all abilities and everyone’s strengths, no matter if they walk or roll up to the table, or if they have a conversation with you using their voice or their iPad. We have taught him to see everyone as equally important and valued. I am on the board of a non-profit that supports individuals and families who have been touched by a disability, and we have taken our son to community events where he met and played with other children from all walks of life, and with different abilities. We wanted him to understand that there are differences everywhere with everyone, and that it is not something to be scared of. We have done this because of our experience and our perspectives of disabilities, and because it is something that we think is important.
While we have actively educated our son on disability, we have not actively done so about race. Why? It isn’t because we don’t believe it’s important, but because it’s not part of our daily experience, we haven’t pointed it out unless it was brought up. Of course, we still talk about differences, differences in gender norms, in talents, in how we walk or move or talk, and in appearance, and that everyone is special and important, however, we have never called out race as a discussion point. I assumed that because we are teaching our son to value differences, that we were addressing race along with it. What I have come to learn in the past couple of days contradicts this idea. I recently came across this research shared across accounts I follow, and I was very surprised about a lot of it. It speaks to the fact that all aspects of valuing and respecting inclusion in all forms and for all peoples needs to be explicitly taught and reinforced with our children, specifically race.
I was floored by some of the research. Some I knew, but much of it was surprising to me. Moving forward, we will make a point to talk about topics with our son, that even though they are not part of what we may be experiencing, are important to his development and important for him to understand. If not now, when? If not us, then who? This is just the beginning of changes we will work to make so that hopefully, we, along with other parents, raise our children to be kind humans who will leave this world better than when they found it.
“We have a small window of time to nurture their minds. That is your superpower. Use it wisely. Make it count.” ~Paula Kuka
Till next time,