The blog this week was written by Michele Momotiuk, the administrative assistant at The Arcadia Institute As far back as Kindergarten, I felt like I didn’t fit in. I was the tallest kid in my class and got teased for it. One little boy in particular, I remember, called me “Mama Long Legs” and I thought I stood out from everyone else. In high school I played in the band, I was on the basketball team and I was a straight ‘A’ student among all the other activities I did. Being involved in a diverse group of activities with many different groups of kids left me feeling like I did not fit in with any one group. Fast forward twenty years and I still struggle to feel like I belong in my neighborhood and feel left out when I see a social gathering of neighbors and realize my family was not invited.
When I came to work at The Arcadia Institute, I was easily on board with its mission to create opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate fully in community life and to make decisions about their own future. Inclusion of everyone made perfect sense to me and just feels like the right thing to do for individuals. I knew I hated to feel left out and wanted to help improve things so others did not have to feel that way. I did not realize that I was missing some of the picture.
I have two children who have been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. My oldest child is in Young 5’s this year and sometimes needs a little extra help to be able to focus on his school work. I was talking to his teacher one day and sharing with her the practice of my son’s OT to do some large motor work before settling down to the fine motor work. I was sharing with her how much that helps him and she pointed out that it would help all the children in the class. While retelling this story in the office, my boss, George Martin, pointed out to me that that is the true meaning of inclusion. I had my “aha” moment about inclusion at that point. It is not just that including someone benefits that individual, but that real inclusion benefits us all.