I’ve been a proponent of inclusion since I learned what it meant when I was in college. Back then (many, many moons ago) it was called mainstreaming. Having my child with special needs interact with your child with or without special needs is inclusion. There are many chapters, treatises and academic studies about the benefits of inclusion. What it means for me is that today my son had a playdate with two of his friends who don’t have special needs. The playdate was at our house and as an introvert I am feeling the customary exhaustion and exhilaration that I usually feel in the wake of such an event.
My son has difficulty making friends, so when the moms of two of his classmates (one from Pre-K) asked if they could bring their daughters over today I jumped at the chance. My son is quite vocal about what he likes and doesn’t like and each occasion for interaction is filled with potential stress for me and for him. I’m quite sure in advance that he will overstep the boundaries of friendship by proclaiming what he will and won’t play. His honesty about the fact that we hid the wooden cookies because he didn’t want to play “cookie store” this time makes me cringe a little. And yet as the party moves to his bedroom with marshmallows and popcorn and me being asked to play the “big, bad wolf” I am happy. I’m happy that he has friends, that they accept him for who he is. I’m happy that I’m not the only one to play with him today. I’m happy to hear him laughing uncontrollably and to hear his friends laughing too.
As moms I think that what we most want for our children is for them to be happy. All the other stuff that we drive ourselves nuts over; the therapies, the report cards, the IEPs, the orthodontics, the worrying about the future, all of it pales in comparison with hearing our children laugh and knowing they are laughing with their friends.
If you are a mom of a child with special needs I know that you’re already doing what you can to make your child happy. Reach out to other moms and arrange a time to get together with your kids. If your child doesn’t have special needs you might want to think about how you can include another child who does. Invite them to a birthday party, or if that might be too overwhelming just have a playdate. It’s pretty likely that there are kids in your child’s class who want to be included even if they don’t reach out to you or your child. Children are more alike than different. They all get a little crazy when they’ve had too much sugar. They all enjoy the opportunity to be themselves. And they all want to be happy.
Be happy and breathe!
Let me know what works for you with inclusion.