I ask myself this question a couple of thousand times a year. Eliana, is inclusion really worth the stress? Are all those headaches worth it? Is it worth so many tears and so much effort? I comfort myself by responding: It has to be worth it.
In my opinion, we can’t give up on our children. We have to stop feeling guilty about their differences, we have to stop letting others set limits for them based on idiotic analogies related to their atypical behavior. We have to stop feeling insecure about their rights, because it’s their right to be supported, it’s their right to be themselves, and it’s their right to belong – the same as anybody else.
We have to stop trying to make them look or behave “typical” in order to please others or be accepted. Instead, we have to take action and demand more awareness programs that allow “typical people of all ages to be educated,” our children with special needs included. Education is our only hope for natural inclusion.
Our families are still victims of ignorance and prejudice, and I’m not talking about bullying. I’m talking about the lack of real and accessible information to define a person with disabilities in a respectful and empowering way. Disability awareness days are celebrated by few. The truth is, they are not considered as important or as valuable as other days of awareness. Meanwhile, our children are not recognized as individuals but as walking labels with predetermined, extremely limited, futures.
Why is inclusion of children with special needs worth it? Because there is no “special needs world” out there once they graduate from school. There are no “special needs positions” of employment that can hold them all. There is no way to teach a child to speak, interact or adapt in our world, without typical interaction on a daily basis throughout childhood. There is no way to “fix” them by segregating them in a special needs classroom. All that they need is to be accepted, understood and integrated with their own abilities and unique ways of expressions.
My whole point is, this is not about giving up on helping your child to be the best version of her or himself, but it’s instead to understand that in order to make a real positive difference for our children, we have to stop segregating them. In order to change the world, we need to normalize disability, help others understand it and deal naturally with it. With no shame, with no resentment, with no pity, and with no prejudice.
This is the beginning of every real change. So when I ask myself if the fight for inclusion for my children with special needs is worth all the stress, the answer is always, yes!