The Secret Key to Inclusion is Transparency

The Secret Key to Inclusion is Transparency; Removing the Stumbling Block

The new school year is upon us. And soon, the new Jewish year will be upon us, as well. The start of a new year can be the most ideal time to make sure that your community and your classrooms are as inclusive as they can be.

Here is a piece that I think is significant: Even if you cannot make every single change that you hope to make at once, being transparent about your efforts and helping your community know that inclusion is something you value will go a tremendous way.

All too often communities feel that they can’t use the language of inclusion if they aren’t “inclusive enough” (let’s not talk now about those who call themselves inclusive but really aren’t…that’s another challenge for another day).

It is ABSOLUTELY acceptable to say that you are making efforts to be as inclusive as possible as you work to make the necessary changes and shape the culture of your community. The key here is transparency.

Move From Intention to Action

In Judaism, intention (kavanah) is an essential component of meaningful action. Kavanah comes from the Hebrew root meaning to direct, intend, or focus. Living a meaningful Jewish life involves combining our actions with the intention we bring to those actions.
Removing the Stumbling Block intention action disability inclusionRabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Pshi’scha, taught, “Good intentions alone, if not accompanied by action, are without value, as it is the action which makes the intentions so profound.” 

It is essential to back up our words with action to fully include individuals with disabilities. Each of us must move from intention to action.  

Some additional thoughts to get you started:

For your congregation - Ten Steps to Make Your Congregation More Inclusive

For your classroom - Teaching the Difference Between Fairness and Equality

For your family - Teach Your Children to be Accepting of Disabilities

For you -  Inclusion is NOT Social Action

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#BlogElul; Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of #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.


The Disability Slur That Stopped Me in My Tracks

The Disability Slur That Stopped Me in My Tracks; Removing the Stumbling Block

I haven’t written in a while. I think the main reason is that with the slower days of summer I really appreciate the change of pace and relish the opportunity to get outside, exercise more, spend time with my kids, and I especially love having the time to read more. 

I read a mix of things in the summer. I tackle a few professional books, I read some young adult fiction, often my own kids’ summer reading assignments along with a few disability inclusion themed selections, and I read some good ole’ beach reads. I tend to gravitate toward light mysteries and popular fiction. 
So I picked up a freebie called “Sweets and a Stabbing” by Harper Lin and expected to finish it in a day or two at most. Except that I was barely into chapter one when I stumbled into this:

“Mr. O'Malley would never have confessed his infidelity at Gatto's Restaurant, causing the scene of Amelia blubbering and stammering away like someone suffering with Tourette syndrome.”

It stopped me in my tracks. 

Labels in Disability Inclusion - Are They Good or Bad?

I created and regularly add to a list of books for children and teens around disability inclusion. I invite you to discover some new books to add to your own lists. And, of course, if you have suggestions of books that I can add, please share them here in the comments.

For more about some of the books I find most notable read: Books That Teach Kids and Teens About Disabilities.

This post was sparked by my recent read of counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  
"Twelve-year-old Willow Chase lived with her adoptive parents in Bakersfield, California. There in the midst of the high desert, she grew a garden in her backyard, her sanctuary. She was excited about starting a new school, hoping this time she might fit in, might find a friend. Willow had been identified in preschool as highly gifted, most of the time causing confusion and feelings of ineptness in her teachers. Now at her new school she is accused of cheating because no one has ever finished the state proficiency test in just 17 minutes, let alone gotten a perfect score. Her reward is behavioral counseling with Dell Duke, an ineffectual counselor with organizational and social issues of his own. She does make a friend when Mai Nguyen brings her brother, Quang-ha, to his appointment, and their lives begin to intertwine when Willow's parents are killed in an auto accident."
There is a powerful excerpt that has stuck with me:
"I was taken to see an educational consultant that autumn and the woman did an evaluation. She sent my parents a letter.

I read it.

It said I was "highly gifted."

Are people "Lowly gifted"?

Or "medium gifted"?

Or just "gifted"? It's possible that all labels are curses. Unless they are on cleaning products.

Because in my opinion, it's not really a great idea to see people as one thing.

Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.

We are all imperfect genetic stews."

Why is it that we rely on labels so much? 

I find myself wondering if there is an alternative. I don't think that there is. And are labels really all bad? I believe that there are also aspects of a label, classification or diagnosis that can be helpful - such as enabling one to receive specific accommodations, ensuring that one receives appropriate medical care, or even just in helping to understand one's strengths and challenges.

I think the greater issue is that "it's not really a great idea to see people as one thing." When we reduce someone to ONLY a label, when we can't see past a classification to appreciate one's gifts, when we pigeon-hole people into boxes based on those labels - this is when we tread on dangerous ground. This is what we need to seek to avoid and undo.

What do you think? Are labels completely problematic, or is there some positive value? 

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