This Is The Way Inclusion Should Be

Yesterday I was flipping through the September issue of Parents magazine, and landed on an article about finding a good preschool for toddlers. My kids are in grade school, but I was thrilled to come upon it. That’s because it has a photo of an adorable little redhead with Down syndrome.

Parents magazine has been featuring photos of children with special needs in their pages for the last few years, and I don’t just mean in articles about kids with special needs. Kids with disabilities model for parenting stories, same as so-called typical kids do. I’ve been writing for the site for the same amount of time, and never once has Parents asked me to call attention to this. Two weeks ago I had lunch with the editor, Dana Points; we talked about our kids, magazines, summer plans. She knows how passionate I am about inclusion but still, she didn’t bring up the cutie pie on page 120.

Parents magazine is featuring kids with special needs in its pages as they should be: matter-of-factly. Organically. Naturally. Like it’s no big deal.

Of course, photos of kids and adults with special needs remain uncommon in the media, so it’s still major to see them in ads or in the pages of magazines—let alone on the cover, as Parents did with their April issue (which featured a brother and sister with autism) and, in February 2013 (which showed a three-year-old with spina bifida). If a company wants to call attention to the fact that they’ve featured a child with special needs, that’s perfectly cool; the more awareness raised, the better. The more people see our children included in mainstream, the better.

Parents like me often face major uphill battles with inclusion, particularly with getting our kids involved involved in programs or extracurricular activities. That’s because people sometimes don’t understand that children with special needs are still children. They may have more visible challenges than others, they may require certain accommodations to level the playing field, but just like their peers they want to play, engage, learn, enjoy. They want to belong.

I speak for many parents of kids with special needs when I say that one of our greatest hopes is for people to accept our children, and the adults they will someday be. That starts with inclusion. Opening up the pages of a magazine and seeing children like our own doesn’t just do our hearts good—it’s one more step toward making the world a more welcoming place for our kids.

From my other blog:

8 ways to include kids with special needs in programs, events, classes, camps, wherever 

Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome

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