Tag Archives: autism

Blogger Talk – Inclusiveness

Donna

What is your response to those in positions of power not leading with inclusion? 

Donna-2

In my opinion, exclusion is fear, so my response to those in positions of power is… Stop being fearful, get yourself curious and educated.  A difference of opinion,  lifestyle, physical ability or religious belief isn’t something that you have to fear, or control to align with your own values or ability.  Everyone has something of value to bring to the table…..and it is the leaders responsibility to have all voices heard, to really listen and to lead without fear of including all voices.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait? 

Both, as long as a person remains curious, they will seek out or take advantage of the opportunity to learn more….and therefore it becomes easy to include everyone.  Perfect example – when a parent takes the time to demonstrate to their child that a person with a visible disability isn’t someone to be feared, children are quick to engage in conversation and inter-action too.  If you choose to believe that your way is the only way to think, feel or live….then that is the legacy you leave your children, unless they are curious themselves.

One small change you are committed to making or have made to live more “inclusively”. 

I admit, I sometimes struggle overcoming my past experiences so that I don’t paint everyone with the same brush, but I am committed to being curious and to educate myself.  With this commitment I have experienced such richness of friendships, adventures and fun.  I am also committed to sharing my values and beliefs in hopes that I can help someone else be less afraid, and more inclusive.

Ellen

What does the word “inclusiveness” mean to you?

I think I approach it from how it is applied or what it looks like. For example, I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum. If they had been born, say 50 or 60 years ago, the severity of their disabilities might have meant they spent their lives in a regional centre, for the most part, cut off from the community. As children, they instead grew up in “inclusive” environments, going to the local school and attending classes with the help of EAs. They were sent to school daily until they were legally no longer eligible. In other words, as a society, we made some attempt to meet their needs in a somewhat inclusive manner for about 21 years (although, going to a public school doesn’t mean they were entirely “included”). Now, as young men, they rely on their parents, a patchwork of temporary caregivers, day centres, and camps, to give their lives pattern and focus. I wouldn’t exactly call their daily existence socially inclusive, and the impermanence of their situation makes it less so. Some day, their parents will no longer be able to care for them and unfortunately, there aren’t many readily available options for the kind of inclusivity that gives their lives heart and meaning. As a society, we determined 20-or-so years ago that large institutions were cruel, expensive, and too “jail-like”. So we closed them. But we haven’t offered much (in scale particularly) to replace them. Group homes are difficult to access, and truly inclusive L’Arche-like communities are few and far between.

But this is just part of my difficulty with what we call “inclusiveness” (and really addresses just one aspect, or area). People mouth the words all of the time. They say things like “we are all equal” but forget that in many cases, we can’t have equality without equity and inclusiveness.

“A child with a disability (or anybody for that manner) cannot be equal unless we give equal access to resources.”

Within my family, among other things, equity means making the immediate environment comfortable for my nephews at family gatherings (allowing them private space, ensuring that the sensory experience isn’t too overwhelming, providing food that they can eat and enjoy, being aware of our possible impact on their comfort, etc.)

I have a friend who has a child with a spectrum disorder. When she hosts family get-togethers, she asks that people come early in the day so that her child is well rested and at their behavioural best to enjoy company. Despite this repeated request, for many years, various members of her family arrived when it suited them—hours late. This made it impossible for her child to be focused when they visited. In other words, despite claiming to be accepting of the child’s disability, her family would not make any accommodations to their own lives and behaviours so that there could be equity—so the child could function well and be proud of their behaviour. And that’s kind of what inclusivity is: including people who are otherwise excluded or marginalized, allowing them to be themselves and not creating situations where they are so challenged that their “differences” become obvious “difficulties” that others have to “overlook”. If you can’t budge an inch on your own agenda, you aren’t being inclusive and equitable.

Have you ever experienced exclusion based on gender, race, or for another reason? Please share

Most women would be lying, oblivious, or choosing to overlook things if they said they have never experienced exclusion based on gender. Now, people may argue what constitutes gender exclusion, because sometimes it isn’t so blatant. But I have felt excluded based on gender and I certainly have felt the exclusion from specific economic opportunities and rewards based on my gender. I also feel class exclusion is something we avoid looking at in Canada. People (and politicians in their rhetoric) venerate “the middle class” and seek to preserve its sensibilities and ideals (if not always its income). We seem to lose our sense of what is “working class” with this emphasis on middle class nationhood. It is seen as something shameful or inferior (including intellectually inferior). Yet we know that many incomes and expectations are going down, not up. I think this encourages more class exclusion as people cling to their beliefs that “class” is natural, not created, and somehow reflects abilities and effort instead of luck and pre-existing privilege.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait?

I would say “character traits” are largely taught or learned. If they weren’t, then we would all be self-absorbed jerks “by nature”. Inclusiveness, and what it means, must be reinforced. It isn’t just one thing, it’s many things. For one thing, we need to recognize our biases and continually question and check them, and this includes our behaviours and language.