#BlogElul 4 - Accept: The True Measure of Inclusion

Acceptance is a prompt hand-picked for a post about disability inclusion, right? There are so many directions and I've written about ways to teach our children to be accepting of disabilities and the difference between tolerance and acceptance.

If you talk with parents of children with disabilities or read some of the many parent blogs, you will discover a common thread; parents want their children with disabilities to be accepted for who they are. (Really, it's what ALL parents want for their children...)

Our task as advocates of inclusion is to create spaces where people will be able to say, “Thank you for accepting me for who I am while giving me the courage to grow, explore and reach past my own perceived limitations.”

That’s it. That’s the true measure of inclusion.

At the end of the day it's really not about whether we have the right teaching strategies or the right classroom structure or the right supports. Those things matter, to be sure. I am not making light of the importance of these constructs. But what we most need to give our students, our congregants, our friends and our family members with disabilities is the gift of acceptance. We must accept each of them for who they are while giving them the courage to grow, explore and reach beyond their own perceived limitations. 
I know it is possible.  

#BlogElul 3 – Bless: Blessed is the One Who Makes Creatures Different

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, m’shaneh habriyot - Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the universe, who makes creatures different.

Diversity. It’s what makes life interesting. How boring it would be if we were all exactly the same! Earlier this summer I used a metaphor of fireworks as a successful model for inclusion, illustrating the significance of diversity. There are many other examples out there and so much written about the value of diversity. 
We should be celebrating diversity. And to do so requires actively teaching it. The Egg Activity is one lesson that you might use. This Survival Kit is another.

I’d love to hear other ways that you actively teach diversity.

This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation...

#BlogElul 2 - Act: Are You A Hypocrite?

Are you a hypocrite?

Don’t answer that.

A better question: Do you practice what you preach?

I am wondering if you are an Educator, a teacher or a synagogue professional committed to inclusion who is working hard to bring a vision of inclusive classrooms and an inclusive community to reality. I hope you said yes…

Now - ask yourself – Are you also someone who will switch lines at the supermarket to avoid the checker with a disability? Do you park in a handicapped spot “just for a minute” while you run a quick errand? Are you a parent who complains that a child with different abilities lowers the expectations for  your child’s class or, worse, “ruins” the classroom experience for your child?

How we act matters. Everywhere. All the time. Not just when we are in our schools. Not just in some conversations some of the time. If we are advocates for inclusion, we are role models. Everywhere. All the time.

I’ve explained this to my students in terms of our Judaism. We are not just Jewish when we are in religious school or synagogue or when we are doing “something Jewish”. Jewish is who we are, not a behavior that we turn on and off, and therefore we can and should see the world around us through our Jewish lens. Just as we can and should see the world around us through an inclusive lens.

We are either inclusive or we aren’t. We can’t turn it on in our schools and our professional lives only to turn it off when the bell rings at the end of the day. 

How we act matters. Everywhere. All the time. 

#BlogElul 1 - Do: An Inclusion To-Do List

Today marks the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, the final month in the Jewish calendar. As we draw closer to Rosh Hashanah, the start of the New Jewish Year, we use this time to focus on personal reflection and renewal.

I am participating in #BlogElul (read more about the project here) as a way to think deeply about my own inclusive practices and reflect on the ways in which I still strive to grow.

I have said often that inclusion is not a program. And inclusion is not something that we do for people with disabilities. Rather, inclusion is a mindset, an attitude, a way of thinking that opens doors to opportunities for meaningful engagement, contribution and belonging.

But is that enough? Can we just think good thoughts and have the right attitudes and POOF all will be inclusive? It seems fairly obvious that we have to DO something to make inclusion a reality. So, I have drafted my suggestions for an inclusion to-do list.

Inclusion To-Do List:

  1. Plan. Plan some more. There are no short cuts for mindful, intentional planning.

  1. Get partners. Collaborate. Don’t go it alone.

  1. Try. Try again. Don’t stop trying.

  1. Reflect. Evaluate. And then try again.

  1. Read. There is a wealth of outstanding material and fantastic bloggers who write consistently about inclusion. Stay current.

  1. Be kind. Being kind to students goes without saying. Be kind to yourself. You can’t do it all at once. Give yourself the space to make mistakes.

What will you put on your to-do list in the year ahead to make your school, your organization, your faith community more inclusive?