Don't Use Inclusion as an Excuse for Bad Behavior

One of the things I do as a disability inclusion consultant is coach organizations and their staff as they work to become more inclusive. One of the most significant ways to accomplish this is to reframe both the way we think about certain situations and the language we use when talking about those situations.
Inclusion Is Not an Excuse for Bad Behavior; Removing the Stumbling Block

Here’s a perfect example:

An Inclusion Coordinator recently asked me the following question, “How do you explain to a parent that their kid was hit, bit, touched by a kid with a disability and explain why we let them [the child with a disability] attend camp? Also, do we explain to parents, before camp starts, that we are an inclusion camp (says this on our brochure) and behaviors may occur? Specifically we have kids with shadows who are included and as great and trained as those shadows are, there is the unexpected behavior.”

This was my response:

“I understand what you are asking and might suggest that the concept needs to be reframed because we don't "excuse away" behavior from certain students/campers "just because" they have a disability. What we must establish and communicate to our parents is a zero tolerance policy for behaviors that would harm others. Just as we would in any other situation [where no disability was involved], we handle infractions swiftly and appropriately, ensuring everyone's safety. What we say to parents is the same thing we would say to parents if a neurotypical child hit/bit/touched theirs - "Your child was hit/bit at camp/school today by another child/student. He/she is completely fine. We had him/her looked at by our nurse (or your specific procedure) but encourage you to follow up at home. The other child has received an appropriate consequence for this incident as we have a zero tolerance policy for hitting/biting/etc." This should NOT differ no matter who broke the rule.

Further, we always have our staff/faculty's back (including aides or one-on-one support, even if they are teens), so we never say, "So-and-so can't be everywhere" or "So-and-so looked away for just a moment." We hire quality people and parents trust us to do this; we do not have to give caveats.

Finally, sharing the message that camp/school is inclusive is another (separate) conversation. Inclusion is in no way a means to excuse anything away, but rather it must be a part of the community's mission. Inclusion is as much about who we are as it is about what we do. Yes, by all means put it on the brochure and other marketing materials - but DO NOT use it as a warning or to explain leniency around certain behaviors. When we say that we are inclusive we do not lesson our other assertions of safety, quality education, etc.

Think hard about your own beliefs. Think hard about the words you use. Think hard about each and every opportunity to LIVE inclusively. This is as important as building the structures and frameworks needed to make inclusion a reality in our camps and schools. Re-framing our opinions and approach to a situation can be the key to becoming more inclusive.  

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