An Attitude of Inclusion: Making Everyone Feel Welcome

inclusionIt’s subtle when your child with disabilities or neurodiversity is being excluded or isn’t entirely welcome. But to any parent who’s been through it, you get a feeling in the pit of your gut when it’s coming.

No one says it outright, of course. “You’re still welcome here!” “We love having you! But…”

They pad it in nice words.

“Have you tried just…”

“Maybe if you-”

“We love you and you’re always welcome over, but…”

You smile. You nod. You’re polite. But you know, and it hurts.

If you have a child with disabilities or neurodiversity in your life — in your family or in your playgroup — how can you make sure your friends and family feel supported? Especially during the holiday season, a time of gathering, where the focus should be on togetherness?

READ: Learning to Float: Striving for Inclusion

Inclusion IS harder. It is. It requires more accommodations, more understanding of behavior outside the norm, and a rethinking of your biases.

But it can look so simple, too. Ask yourself, what would it look like if everyone can participate?

Discuss individual needs

If you don’t know the answer, ask! Text your friend or family member what you can do to help make their child more comfortable or what might be helpful for them.

At a gathering, this could mean a quiet room where they can play if they get overstimulated, or making sure they have a way to access the family meal. It may be not wrapping their presents if they have a fine motor delay. You’ll see a pattern here — it’s definitely dependent on the child.

Be understanding

An attitude of inclusion may also mean not being offended. A party may be a lot for the child, and they’ll need to leave early. A child may not be interested in opening presents, or choose a different food than everyone else. Each child will be different — it’s okay to ask what would be helpful!

Have the right attitude

Inclusion is more than just actions; it’s an overall attitude. It’s approaching with more understanding and grace for the child and their parents. Having a child with different needs often requires incredibly creative solutions to problems and parenting challenges that may not look like yours. Maintaining an attitude of non-judgment and understanding will go a long way.

Allison Lore is a California native who is thrilled to be back in the year-round sunshine after a decade of living in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. She has a background in journalism, technical writing and marketing, and currently works as a proposal manager for a civil engineering firm. She relocated to Jacksonville in 2017 with her husband and son. Her passions include baking, coffee, reading and socializing with friends. Her toddler has taught her more than she ever thought she would know about the nuances of construction vehicles.

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