As a prototype centre, we are lucky to be trying out a new early childhood education ‘inclusion coordinator’ position. This has given us the opportunity to think more about what inclusion is. Inclusion is a bit of a buzz word; it seems like a great model that is hard not to get behind but what is inclusion exactly? It encompasses so much complexity and grappling with what inclusion actually is has been a difficult and on-going task! I see inclusion as a way of looking at the world. It encourages us to question our environments and habits and asks us to think about the way we do things, and what people we privilege and messages we put forward through our environment, language, materials, routines, etc. It encompasses thinking about culture, ability, family structures, age, and more. When I think about inclusion in the childcare setting I like to refer back to the quote “equality is not always about treating everyone the same – it is about treating people in such a way that the outcome for each person can be the same” (NYCI, n.d). This means realizing we all have capacities to be successful and to meaningfully contribute to a classroom, work place, relationship, etc but at the same time recognizing that we live in a world of social inequities that does not provide people with equal opportunities. We value particular abilities, ways of being, appearances, talents, family structures etc over others and tend to have trouble seeing beyond the ways we already do things. This means working to unpack our normalized distinctions and realize that many of the lines we draw between “able” & “disabled” or “successful” vs “unsuccessful” are arbitrary and culturally dictated and thus can be changed.
By working towards inclusion we make space for not knowing the answers & asking others how they want to be represented and known. Creating more inclusive spaces can provide opportunities to learn and to grow, to try new things and to consider new ideas, activities and ways of thinking. To me, inclusion means not simply accommodating or tolerating a difference or celebrating aspects of it, but truly learning from and valuing it.
NYCI (n.d). What is Equality. National Youth Council of Ireland. Retrieved from: https://www.youth.ie/articles/what-is-equality/
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