To celebrate World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day, Autism Ontario York Chapter wants to add to the Inclusion conversation. Here are three viewpoints: the parent of a child with autism, a teacher with many years’ experience working with students with autism, and a young woman with autism.
What is True Inclusion?
By Stacey Feldt
To me, true inclusion and belonging is when everyone’s “otherness” goes to the back of people’s minds and although differences are still acknowledged, they are accepted and treated as a part of normal everyday life. This might look like someone’s “otherness” being mentioned in a group and then the group of people going “huh, never knew that” or “never would have guessed” and with a nod of heads everyone goes back to what they/the group was originally doing. Or perhaps in another situation the “otherness” would be mentioned and someone or the group would offer help and/or to change how things are being done and no big deal would be made of the help and/or change, the help and/or change would be given/carried out as if it was a completely normal and everyday occurrence. Inclusion and belonging happens when one’s “otherness” becomes a normalcy and ceases to be an “otherness”.
However, in my experience true inclusion and belonging occurs in a minority of spaces, places, and amount of people. This is because we live in a society where there are ingrained segregating traditions, outdated routines, sensationalizing of differences, and the avoidance of differences due to the safety of sameness. This makes it impossible for true inclusion and belonging to occur everywhere. Life is unjust, this is not something that can be fixed, however it can be offset by people overcoming these things that are ingrained into our society.
Through spreading awareness and spending and encouraging the spending of prolonged and frequent amounts of time with many different individuals who are considered “others”, we can slowly build up the spaces, places, and people, with where and who true inclusion and belonging occurs. And hopefully one day that minority will turn into a majority.
Everyone deserves to have a vast majority of places, spaces, and people with where and who they are included and feel like they belong. Though realistically there will most likely always be a situation where one is not included and does not feel like they belong, this should not be the majority of cases. It should only every be the minority, no matter what “otherness ” there is, be it if you have ASD, have a different ethnicity, ability, race, sexuality, religion, are neurotypical, or something else, you should be included and feel like you belong in the majority of situations. This is what I believe and strive for, and hope that others can come to believe and strive for too.
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