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Inclusion in the Classroom Enhances Community and Prevents Bullying

News for 10.29.18
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Classroom Inclusion Enhances Community and Prevents Bullying

By Ana Gomez, Family Resource Center Support Group Leader

I’m the mother of two amazing boys who are 3 and 10 years old. Both were diagnosed with speech delays, and my oldest was also diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia and mood disorder. Finding appropriate services for my oldest son was a difficult task, particularly when support and information were lacking in my community of East Palo Alto. But having children with special needs has given me the opportunity to learn the real meaning of inclusion.

For me, inclusion means that my child is welcome to play, learn, and explore in any setting. As a parent, inclusion means the world to me. For my oldest son, however, he doesn’t recognize or understand what the word "inclusion" means. He’s a shy little guy who prefers to stay alone rather than be part of a big group. When I once explained to him the meaning of inclusion, he just answered "Mom, I don’t get it. Why shouldn’t people include others? It doesn't make sense."

Creating a truly inclusive community starts in the classroom. It benefits both children with special needs and those who are typically developing.  It sets a precedence for acceptance and respect for people of all abilities, despite their differences, and can prevent bullying in schools by building a solid foundation of compassion in children.

Inclusion in the community has been a big challenge for us, because my son has often been overlooked. He isn’t at the same level as the other kids. For example, baseball teams have had him sit on the bench for more than half of the game, and Taekwondo classes have turned him away because he distracts other kids.

In some classrooms, my son has experienced challenging situations when it comes to inclusion. He has been placed in segregated classrooms. He has also been placed at a separate table away from the rest of the kids and has been labelled as lazy by teachers. When this happens, it is not only impactful to my son for being excluded from his peers but makes him a target for bullying.

In other classrooms, however, where they value inclusion, he has experienced excellent treatment. Teachers can have a tremendous influence on our kids with special needs. Indeed, all kids can dramatically change when inclusion is practiced in an appropriate way. Just this year, my son has become a little more social with his classmates, thanks to his teacher who went out of the way to always include him.

One of the reasons I love working with the team at Gatepath’s Family Resource Center in San Mateo is because we all believe in and promote inclusion. We believe in raising awareness for bullying prevention to protect our special kids.  My colleagues and I encourage other parents who have a child with special needs not to get discouraged and to let others know what inclusion means to them, because inclusion matters and can make a big impact in our communities.

Celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month by promoting inclusion in your community, and courageously sharing your story with educators, and the community. Download Gatepath’s FREE national report on bullying prevention “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” which has lots of resources on how to help your child with bullying, and how to advance inclusion in the classroom.

For support, resources or assistance please call the Family Resource Center support line at 650-259-0189 to speak in English or Spanish with a fellow parent of a child with special needs.