What is Inclusion?

Rochelle Followes by Rochelle Followes Additional Needs

Rochelle Followes

Rochelle Followes

I am parent to a gorgeous little blue eyed boy who has complex needs. I have a Facebook page, 'my daily miracle' where I share our life with others...

I guess I would say that I am an advocate for inclusion and work so hard to achieve it for my son.

To achieve inclusion, I believe it to be important for everybody to be on the same page and have understanding of different needs, even if they may not have experience with some of the needs.

I’ve written many blogs covering this topic, but I wanted to look at it from a different angle.

I have written about how crucial it is to include Zachariah in as many activities, opportunities etc as possible.

Anything his friends are doing, Zachariah should be right there enjoying it too.

But have you ever flipped this over and thought about how you include other children into what Zachariah (or your child) is doing?

Looking at Nursery as a starting point, Zachariah requires seating, standing frame, feeding pump, dummy, object of references, sensory toys, the list goes on. These are his things.

He requires buggy walks to calm him down or the enjoyment of fresh air to stimulate but also soothe him.

A lot of what Zachariah does may seem like special treatment to the other kiddies, which it isn’t, it’s a need that needs meeting in order for Zachariah to be happy, healthy and safe.

Every child will have their own needs that need meeting but may not be as demanding or obvious.

I often wonder about how other children perceive Zachariah and worry whether they see him as being different and receiving extra attention to what they get.

This is why I think it is so important that inclusion works both ways.

Now I’m not saying let's give every other child a wheelchair or a standing frame, but there's no harm in involving the children in a way that is fun for them, like pushing his wheelchair on the little walks to the park, if they wish to do so, or helping set up his feed, or enjoying quiet sensory time with him.

And I think it’s important to educate them on why Zachariah needs so many things to assist in daily activities.

Let them see that it's important to Zachariah and without it he would really struggle.

This is inclusion! It may not be giving them the same as Zachariah, but it’s involving them in his activity.

You see how this can be flipped?

We work so hard to fit children with disabilities into a world that they should already fit into, that we forget that everyone should also fit into Zachariah's world.

Or even better, we just all do our best to include everyone by planning properly.

Now I know there is a fine line between inclusion and getting them to do all the jobs that need doing within Zachariah's routine, but if you make it all on their terms and offer, not demand, they will choose whether or not they want to be included in Zachariah's daily routine.

There’s a very special friend at Zachariah's nursery, who moved up to the preschool room when Zachariah was held back as it was more practical to do so.

Even though this little girl is in a different room, and only sees Zachariah at joint outdoor play time, she still comes to find him and plays with him.

My heart exploded recently as I was collecting Zachariah from Nursery, his 1 to 1 was telling me how this little girl had been pushing him around as they explored the world using her imagination.

His little friend was taking him to the beach and other wonderful places and telling him all about it along the way.

She was giving Zachariah so much here, as she wanted to share so much with him.

Zachariah smiled, giggled and did his flirty eyes as he listened to his friend narrate the adventure.

Just beautiful.

You see how this is pure inclusion?

They are joining their own little worlds into one and enjoying playing together.

Moving on to parks, I have stressed the need for more inclusion on parks time and time again.

I feel I have settled for a nest swing or a high back chair swing.

But recently I was challenged.

Why should it stop here?

Is this really inclusion?

As not all children can come out of their wheelchair, this will become a reality for us before we know it, there needs to be wheelchair accessible activities too.

An absolutely amazing piece of equipment is the ground level roundabout and it is the definition of inclusion, as it allows all children to go on without any disabilities getting in the way.

There's room for wheelchairs, space to sit and places to stand, whilst someone pushes. Inclusion is everybody enjoying life together.

I understand that not everything can be achieved, but I feel there is so much more we can do to try and let down this thick barrier we have.

Disabilities are heightened when the world puts barriers up to stop a person being who they want to be and doing what they want to do.

Wouldn't it be amazing to knock these barriers down?

It would feel so good not to be judged at the hospital for requesting a bed to change Zachariah's nappy.

It would great to see all children playing together in one place without boundaries.

It would feel like inclusion if we didn't need to keep campaigning for our children's needs to be met.

But we do need to be part of the answer in all this and help people see what these needs are.

I've recently joined our parent /carer forum group and started to share our experiences to help shape services and adapt hospitals etc to make an inclusive and accessible town!

But I'm also listening to what other families need and branching out from my own bubble, which is just as important! I'm soon to launch a new club for children 0 to 16 with SEND to create a safe place for them to meet, I have big dreams to expand this and integrate and make it more inclusive.

But first I'm finding what our families with children who have SEND first. As there are already so many clubs for children, but not many cater for all needs.

We've just got back from a Calvert trust holiday in Northumberland and I cannot praise them enough!

Zachariah just fitted in.

No worrying about where his next nappy change will be done, no worries of him being on the side line watching rather than getting involved, and zero accessibility issues.

Zachariah was part of everything! Nothing was too big for the staff.

For one week our family was able to be a family and do everything together.

A lot could be learnt from this special place, we will be returning next year for sure!


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