Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can there be perils to over inclusion??

Inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. As parents, we are encouraged by the "disability community" (if there is such a monolithic beast) to push for our children to be included with their peers in school, in recreational activities, in religious life and so on. Some disability inclusion web sites such as Disability is Natural and disability blog writers often disdain activities that segregate the disabled from the rest of the population, such as Challenger Baseball and Special Olympics.

However, when a child with special needs always follows an inclusion model in his/her youth, what happens when that child becomes an adult? I had coffee this week with my friend "D." Her family includes two sons on the autism spectrum. One is now about 20, and the other is in high school. "D"'s sons were fully included in school, and had few interactions with children with similar special needs.

What "D" has realized, however, is that her sons now resist spending time with other teens or young adults with developmental disabilities. They claim they are not comfortable doing so. This is turn limits their options for recreational and social activities as they grow older. For example, "D"'s older son refuses to participate in recreational activities for young adults with disabilities, such as Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation's Access to Recreation programs or Special Olympics.

"D" told me she never thought about the unintended consequences of full inclusion, which she said has resulted in "seclusion by inclusion." Her older son's "typical" peers are off to college, hanging out with their girlfriends or working full-time, while he is not. His isolation and discomfort with others like him are issues "D" didn't consider when her son was younger.

So, is there an answer? For us, a combination of inclusion and "disabled only" activities seems to be working for Sayer. I must admit that after talking to "D" I am more open to looking into Special Olympics and similar programs. I would love to hear from other mothers of older children with special needs. How is your child making the transition to adult hood? Is he/she finding opportunities for belonging and fun, and with whom? Have their been unintended consequences to your decisions in raising your child?


Susan said...

I absolutely believe this, and what an important topic to think about.

Hopefully our kids will grow up able to mix with anyone at all, without feeling alienated, so we give both of them a mix of inclusive & special groups and events and classes. We'll be starting Special Olympics for our son this year, equestrian and maybe swimming.

Good luck whatever you do!

Anonymous said...

Obviously, B is 8, but I am a big believer in the 'balance' theory. We do Special Olympics, which helps his self-esteem and gets him involved in the community (that's a big range of community, here) and we also do cub scouts. Scouts is hard for him, but in the long run, I can imagine the benefits (social, being a part of the 'larger' community, etc).

To me, that is what inclusion should be, too (I am thinking school here), finding that balance so that he gets the academics he needs, but also the 'other' things that he also needs (such as social skills).

Anonymous said...

We've wanted our son (5) to have a good mix of experiences with typical kids and kids like him. Special Olympics hasn't worked out for him because of his SID and the location of the play. We'll get this part figured out.

But this post makes a very important point. Having put this in the forefront of our minds, my mind, I will be sure to follow through with some of the relationships I've been trying to help him forge...with kids like him.

Carol said...

This issue is one reason why I am so glad I have this blog, and also try to keep in touch "in-person" with mothers who have children further up the road than Sayer. like "D". We can learn so much from each other; things that aren't necessarily in those special needs parenting books.

China said...

Great post. I'm glad my kids got to go to a special needs preschool from age 2 through Pre-K. It gave them a confidence boost and they saw they weren't the only ones like them.
I've heard this before from visually impaired teens and young adults who don't want to be around other "blind" people. They discriminate against those with the same challenge. Sad.

Pam said...

Hello everyone, my son is 20 so we are definitely in the older group......For me, the big leap has been my acceptance that our son will always need supervision to survive in the world. His life as an adult will look very different than my experinece as a young adult. And while I can hope that he gets along OK with everyone, he does not need to LIKE everyone. And knowing his likes (fast food, water, outdoor walks, etc.) is helping me advertise for people to apply to be his companion home provider. We anticipate him moving into a companion homme next year. FYI, a companion home is where someone with a disabiltiy lives with a family or other folks (it is a type of adult foster home) Many people with autism do better in this type of setting than in group homes where the behaviors can annoy one another. Take care, all, Pam

Carol said...

Pam - is there anything on the internet that tells more about companion homes? If so, please send me the link and I'll post it on the blog. Thanks!