The world health organization reports, that, “People with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world. People with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.”
(World Health Organization, September 2013)
The best way to fix this problem is to include people with disabilities in our everyday lives. Research has shown that students with disabilities who are placed in classrooms with typically developing students do significantly better in every way.
Since people with disabilities used to be institutionalized, many people do not know how to include people with disabilities. We need to include people with disabilities in our everyday lives starting at a young age.
So, how can people with disabilities be more included in our society?
How can you include your peers with disabilities in everything you do?
Here is a cartoon depicting, that, if you want to include people with disabilities, it is not enough to just treat them the same as everybody else.
You have to make some modifications or accommodations.
If there is something you think you cannot do with someone with a disability, remember there is always a way.
My sister has Down syndrome. Since she is delayed in math, one of her teachers asked his assistant to take her to another room to read her a story from a book related to math, while the rest of the class played some math games. He thought she would appreciate this, but my sister was very upset, because she was not included. One of the students who knew her well suggested that the teacher let her use a calculator and work together with another student. These simple accommodations made it possible for her to be included by her peers, so she could learn from them and they from her.
I am on the cross country team at my high school. One of the runners on my team has autism. At one of the races he took a wrong turn during the race and got lost. Another time he skipped part of the course and finished the race with some of the fastest runners of the meet. The team decided to have one of the runners on the team run with him and pace him during each race. It helped him stay on track, and it was a very rewarding experience for us, when we had the chance to run with him.
You can do the same thing with anyone who has a disability.
My sister who has Down syndrome is 14 years old.
Whatever we do, we include her.
My parents have always put her in mainstream classes with typically developing children.
Whether it is hiking, swimming, playing board games, or learning German and Spanish.
We always make it work.
She is an amazing skier, actor, dancer, singer, and swimmer. She enjoys doing all these things with our family as well as with her friends. She has learned a lot from her peers and they have learned a lot from her.
For example, my sister was in a play at a local arts center for almost 4 years, when she was younger. Initially she needed extra help. The teachers took videos of the rehearsal, so my sister could watch them and practice at home. My sister also had some buddies in class, who helped her make sure she would get on or off the stage at the right time.
She does not need help with that anymore, but it used to make a big difference for her. Big difference for her, very simple for her peers to help. Many people told us, that my sister was their favorite person to watch in the plays.
Math is especially challenging for children with Down syndrome. As mentioned earlier, my sister's teachers learned to just let her use a calculator, put less problems to solve on worksheets, have her work with a partner for math games, etc.
But in many situations people do not know how, or are not willing to make small modifications. When this happens, and she is excluded, it makes my sister very sad.
Now, find someone at your school or neighborhood, and invite them to do something with you. Remember, small changes can make a big difference.
You will find that you can do almost all of your favorite activities with your new friend. If you are not sure how, just ask his or her parents. Have a great time!