Is inclusion of children with disabilities possible - What is the first step

articles Jan 05, 2023

(Photo 229746503 © Evgenyatamanenko |

I often talk about inclusion of children with disabilities in our communities. But before we can look at inclusion in the community, we must remember that inclusion starts within the family circle.  

Enjoying a family meal, going to the playground with friends, or enjoying a sleepover at the grandparents' house, may not be easy for families with children with disabilities. I know as I experience this with my own son.

Inclusion in the immediate family unit
My husband, our two children and I try to do activities as a family that considers Sebastian's needs.

When Sebastian was little, it was limited to what we could do together as a family. 

I still remember how happy I was when Sebastian's preschool teacher taught him to hold hands, walk together and not run away because that meant we could start taking little walks or go to a coffee shop together as a family. 

Now, there are things that the four of us love doing together, like going out for Sunday lunch, watching movies, playing Jenga, or having a lazy day in the house. 

They may be simple things, but more important than what we do is that we do it together as a family.

Inclusion with the broader family
Joining activities with extended family is challenging for two reasons. First, because they tend to involve a lot of people, and second because those gatherings are often get-togethers when people sit and talk and children with social and communication difficulties may be unable to join in those conversations.  

What helps us to include my son in activities with bigger groups is to explain to people Sebastian's needs. 

When Sebastian was little, my lovely sister-in-law wanted him to feel welcome in her house. Sebastian would get some snacks and a nice treat, play in the garden with her, and then he was allowed to go in the sitting room and watch tv while we had dinner and a chat. 

As we have a close relationship, we could discuss what Sebastian needed then, and she was happy to accommodate this. I will be forever grateful that she provided a warm environment for Sebastian and us to relax.

However, in general, it´s challenging for my son to join and enjoy family gatherings. However, with some planning and understanding, we can enjoy get-togethers with family members.

Family is the most powerful support system we have
I learned from professor Roy McConkey inclusion starts in the family
Include your child in family activities as much as possible, although I understand the challenges.

Start by spending time with family members who have a natural bond with your child and understand your child's needs. It will not only make your child happy, but you will also be able to relax and enjoy those get-togethers.

When possible, look at ways of making activities appealing to your child. Your child may be happy to visit his grandparents' house if some of his favourite toys or snacks are there or might be interested in playing with their cousins if they are joining a favourite thing they like doing. 

Try to make the child feel comfortable in different environments. Your child might not like busy and noisy environments, but it may be ok if there is a quieter area where they can retreat. 

Including our children with additional needs in family activities can often be challenging; however, we must dedicate time to encouraging our family to get to know our child and, and foster meaningful relationships with family members.

Leave a comment… 

(No email is required!)
Comment Guidelines