Knowledge is just as important as inclusion

Boo is in an integrated preschool. A school where for every child that has a disability there is one typical child. The disabilities range from autism to ADHD to Down Syndrome to Cerebral Palsy to Boo. At a quick glance at the class you might not be able to tell which child is typical and which child is brilliant.

Which is the whole point of the program.

Okay maybe it isn’t the whole point. However the point could be made that by exposing our children to typical will allow them to grow social skills that come naturally to their peers. The peers learn empathy, patience and that not everyone is the same.

All good, right?

Except the other day when it wasn’t. 

My friend was walking into school with her child. Behind her another mother was walking in with their own. She heard from behind her, “who’s that”? 

The child replied, That is X. He doesn’t talk.

Instead of letting it go or saying something….ANYTHING positive the mother was heard shushing her and saying “that’s not nice”.

Here is the thing. What the girl said wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t mean. It wasn’t “not nice”. It was true. Kind of. X can talk. But he has autism so you have to be looking at him and engage him for him to talk back to you.

X’s mom left feeling like her son was weird. Like he is misunderstood. This one place in the universe (outside his home) was supposed to be the safe place for us. A place where our child is accepted for who they are.


I adore Boo’s program. I love each and every one of her teachers and therapists. But I worry they might be missing an important component. I understand privacy laws and all that crap. However the typical children should be made aware (in words they understand) why X doesn’t talk to them. Why Boo doesn’t play appropriately with them. Why oh why in words a young child understand all children are not the same.

That all children, typical and brilliant are all special in their own way.

I am sure they do teach it. But the other day the lesson was lost and a mom went home feeling her son was weird. I think there needs to be more done. More parent teaching. Yes, I know we cannot get parents to come to a PTA meeting who can we get them to an inclusion training? 

There is an answer somewhere. It starts with the letting the children teach the parents. It doesn’t stop at an integrated preschool but an integrated school environment. One where every day there is a brief moment of education of those with challenges.  Awareness helps but until you ask you do not know, so you guess. It’s perfectly normal. Being aware is knowing autism exists. Being knowledgeable is knowing what autism is. We need to let inclusion bring more than awareness but knowledge.

If we can not let a 5 year-old ask the question, how can the 18 year-old know? 

6 thoughts on “Knowledge is just as important as inclusion

  1. Kerith Stull

    Oh my goodness… You are SO right! Adults needs to be the role models, but so many just don't know what to model (or they think they do, like that mom who hushed their child). There needs to be more out there to help the adults so they can help their kids.

    (see the URL I entered for a post I did on this)

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  2. Dana @ Kiss my List

    When my son was in first grade, the mom of a boy with autism came into the class and talked to the kids about why J. doesn't always behave like the rest of the kids, and what the kids can do to engage with him and include him in activities. I cannot tell you how much that made a difference! By sharing knowledge, the mom gave kids the information they needed (and wanted), and made J's autism not a “condition,” but just a part of who he is.

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  3. OhBoyMom

    This was such an important post and I couldn't agree more. You are SO right that the education has to happen alongside the inclusion for BOTH the parents and the students. Clearly, that mom was uncomfortable with her child merely answering a question in that typical, unfiltered way that kids answer questions. Had the mom been more comfortable with the topic, she may have discovered that her child was in fact more knowledgable about the other child's autism than she realized. Had the mom not “shushed” her child, she may have discovered that the child knew why he didn't talk and if the child did not know why, then yes, more education needs to be done with the students so that they can educate their parents. Really important topic Kerri!!

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  4. smithsholidayroad

    I really dislike the shushing! I love a kid that asks questions! On the weekend we went out for dinner with a school friend and I was amazed watching her chat with Coops. First of all she did not need any interpreting from me, she dished him up his dinner, asked if it needed to be in smaller pieces and helped him hold his straw to drink…….it was totally normal to her as she'd seen him in school doing it this way and his integration aide ( mainstream school ) explains stuff like this to normalise it! Siblings are also great for explaining difference xx thanks for bringing this up for discussion xx

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  5. Autism Mom

    You are so correct here. Culture change takes places through repetition of a message every time it can be repeated by everyone who can repeat it – teachers, parents, the principal, at school, homes, play dates, events.

    And parents need to feel safe to let their children learn and explore and not judged by society so that they shush their child for fear that they will be considered bad parents if they don't.

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