Picture a classroom where all of the children look, act and develop exactly the same. You won’t see extensive learning opportunities on the part of the teacher or the children. Inclusion is necessary for fundamentals to be learned and expanded. This is what my son, Daniel (who was born with Down Syndrome), brings to his daycare class and the other two-year olds he interacts with, just as they bring these things to him and each other. Daniel has been part of an inclusive classroom since he started daycare at 4 months old. He is accepted as just another child by the other kids in his class, and as a learning and teaching experience by his teachers.
Daniel’s teachers have learned much more about child development as they have seen even the tiniest of changes in what he does. With many other children, they progress so fast that these changes go unnoticed; such as the way your entire body has to learn how to walk up stairs, not just your legs. Or in the way your mouth, arms, hands and trunk of your body has to mold itself and build up muscles in order to drink from a straw or an open cup. This has allowed the teachers to creatively help other children who are struggling, know exactly what tips and tricks to use to help the others in the classroom as well as Daniel. They have realized that nothing we do is automatic, that our bodies adjust to even the slightest changes and as teachers, we can promote these changes in order to help with development.
Daniel’s friends (his classmates), benefit from this since their teachers are more aware of how a child physically develops. Many of them are learning to help Daniel, by holding his hand and looking out for him even though he is quite capable of doing most things on his own. They realize that Daniel isn’t exactly like them, just as each of them is different from the other. Is Daniel thought of as different or special? No, he is a part of their circle of friends and accepted be each person. This is what inclusion is all about; if acceptance starts with the little ones, then it will be part of the big world.