One of the Kids’: Supporting Children with Disability and their Families
In this blog, Jenna Golab speaks with an ECIA NSW/ACT staff member about supporting families’ understanding and use of inclusive practices.
How do you talk about and explain inclusion to families?
Inclusion means that your child is treated like ‘one of the kids’ wherever they are, whatever they are doing. It’s important for all children, including children who have disabilities, to be a part of their families and communities. It might mean a few adjustments need to be made, but the goal for me is inclusion, not just equality.
How do you facilitate families’ understanding of inclusion? What strategies do you employ to support them in thinking about inclusion at home and with their immediate and extended family?
I like to use analogies with my families to help make these concepts more tangible. Whenever I meet a new family, one of the first things I talk about is how I see our relationship. I like to break down the barrier between professional and parent so that parents know from the start that it’s a partnership. We’re all in the team, and we’re all working towards the goals for the child, who is at the centre of everything we do. I acknowledge their expertise in their child, and remind them that THEY pick the destination for their child. I’ll be there in the passenger seat, I’ll suggest the best route to reach their destination, and if we take a wrong turn, I’ll help them to find their way back on track. All the while, the child’s along for the ride in the back.
How do you engage families in inclusive practices?
Once I was teaching a family about using descriptive language with their child to expand their vocabulary. We were out in the sandpit and the child picked up a stone and started examining it. I seized this moment to model my strategy and describe the rock. I said how it was round, and smooth and brown and speckled. Then I ran out of ideas, and commented ‘well I guess there’s only so much you can say about a rock!’ Fortunately the child’s grandfather had come along to the session that day, and before I knew it, he began describing the rock… turns out he was a retired geologist!
For me… this highlights the value in inclusive practices. You never know what you’ll discover!