Inclusion is a popular topic in the autism community, and for good reason. Often times, inclusion is mentioned in the educational setting, however it is much more than that. The definition of inclusion, when paired with diversity, is the deliberate act of welcoming diversity and creating an environment where all different kinds of people can thrive and succeed. Put simply, diversity is what you have. Inclusion is what you do.
Today we’re speaking with Kathryn Jenkins. She is a mom of three boys. Her oldest son was diagnosed with Autism at 2 years old, and is now 8. She became an advocate for him and is now an advocate for the autism community as a whole. She wrote and published her first book, Inclusion Alphabet in October 2018 and has subsequently been able to speak to schools and community groups on the inclusion topic.
“These simple strategies are based off how I initially started to connect and include my own son. I also want to point out that these strategies can be used for kids, adults, families, classrooms, and within the community. I teach and speak about these same 10 for everyone because I really think it applies to everyone.
Also in my research, I am seeing a lot of kids struggling with bullying but even more so with loneliness. I think that’s a huge topic that needs to be addressed, especially in the autism community and I feel like these 10 are a good way to start engaging and creating respect amongst everyone. “ – Kathryn Jenkins
10 Simple Strategies to Start Including Someone Who is Different.
- Get into his or her world— you might need to be prepared to give before you take, my son loved numbers and running so we counted and ran. In another example, they might not want to join you and play basketball at recess but they might be willing to play something they like first. Be willing try what they want first
- Listen through words and behavior —you can learn a lot about why someone is doing something or not doing something by observing, not saying a word, and seeing how things play out. Sometimes you receive feedback and can listen to that person, other times through consistent behaviors — you find a solution to make the relationship work or to correct or understand that behavior.
- Try at certain and predictable times — people like to know what to expect especially if there is anxiety or trauma associated with their differences. Simply knowing that they will be trying to be a friend during this time of day or that they can help that process and get things started makes it easier. (Ex: engaging at lunch each day, or for a few minutes before the start of class, talking in the evening before bed or at the dinner table)
- Set up for success — this was said to me over and over by therapist, and now I know (ex: start with smaller goals or requests and move from there, adapt your surroundings)
- Be consistent, keep your promises — trust plays a huge role in relationships. Even when people don’t act like it, they want to count on you. No one ever wants to feel betrayed or lied to and even though it’s a small thing, it’s probably not to that person.
- Engage in a unique way — Engagement and play time might be different. It might be side by side play, it might be watching someone play a video game and not talking, it may include adapting your equipment so that you can still play a game of basketball, perhaps you are going to use a different ball or you are going to change the rules. You might choose to play a board game without rules and engage that way. Be creative, and flexible.
- Accept the differences, find the similarities — even though Johnny paces or has stimming behaviors that make him more comfortable and that is different; Johnny still likes Minecraft and Legos and Pokemon. There are similarities to find.
- Forgive, say sorry, and forgive again — so easy to preach and so hard to do but without forgiveness, Inclusion cannot exist.
- YOU are part of the inclusion team too — we focus so much on including others that have been excluded that sometimes it’s the caretaker or the friend that ends up feeling alone. Make sure it’s working for everyone is key because if it’s not, it’s not working for anyone.
- Educate yourself — read books, watch movies, gain more insight through experience. Knowledge is power and I find as we gain more knowledge and experience, we gain more understanding and empathy too.
“Inclusion to me is the process of accepting, supporting, creating, and finding opportunities for each person to reach their full potential regardless of race, religious beliefs, ethnicity, sexual identity, physical or psychological ailments, intelligence, differences, or other attributes that may set them apart from you. It is not about placement or being in the same room together. Inclusion allows us to be our best selves and it shouldn’t stop or hinder anyone else’s ability to succeed. Everyone’s potential has value and is worth promoting. “ – Kathryn Jenkins
Inclusion Alphabet: https://www.amazon.com/Inclusion-Alphabet-Everyone-Kathryn-Jenkins/dp/1732740429/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550103357&sr=8-1&keywords=Inclusion+alphabet