Wednesday, January 11, 2023

What Does Inclusion Mean?

What Does Inclusion Mean?

We say the word ‘inclusion’ a lot but, as with most words we use often, sometimes the actual meaning slowly becomes lost. So, this is what inclusion means to me and my daughter.


Inclusion means people talk to her, even if she doesn’t make eye contact or answer back. Just because she’s wearing her headphones doesn’t mean she isn’t listening and just because she doesn’t talk or look you in the eye doesn’t mean she’s not learning from you.

It means our house is a little quieter, and I find myself apologizing when I talk too loudly. It means I let her know when I need to turn the blender or the vacuum on. But it’s also understanding that not all loud noises are bad. Our pet parakeets? Not too bad. Family dance parties? VERY fun—the louder the better.  In fact, sometimes my little girl gets rather loud herself.  Sometimes I’m the one telling her she needs to stop squealing so loudly or that she needs to turn down the tablet. Inclusion at home means respecting each other’s needs and helping each other feel comfortable and safe.

Being included means it's okay to stop whatever we’re doing and dig into our backpack to get a comfort animal, a snack, some stickers, or headphones. Because we all need help, not just sometimes, but every single day. And we should all be able to have and use the tools we need to feel calm, safe, and capable of being our best selves

 Inclusion means being invited. It means everyone is invited to reading time at school even if we can’t sit still today, or if it’s hard to put our favorite toy away.  Invite her. Even if baby girl would rather focus on something else or is feeling too shy to join a big group today, it feels nice to be invited because being invited means you’re loved and wanted. And if the answer happens to be ‘no thank you,’ then inclusion means that ‘no’ is respected.


Inclusion can mean a lot of things and it can change someone’s entire world. At its best, inclusion means loving teachers who take the time to learn about meltdowns and sensory needs from reliable sources so that they can help a struggling student. It means speech therapists who accept sign language, speech devices, and any other mode of communication that let non-verbal children communicate their needs, thoughts, and dreams.

Inclusion isn't a one-time 'service project' or a one-time task to check off and 'get it over with'.

Inclusion is every day, all the time.

Today it meant a loving stranger who didn't criticize or judge me when I asked for help. But instead, took the time to write down her daughter’s birthday party schedule so I could go through it over the next few days with my little girl and we can make a plan on how to handle food we don’t like, cats who might walk against our legs, and games we have never played before. It means someone took the time to help my little girl feel safe and confidant about going to her first ever party.

It takes a little extra time, and it takes a little thought. But in the end, inclusion means true and real acknowledgement, acceptance, and respect.

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