To celebrate National Volunteer Month during April, we’re going to be writing about organizations and individuals that are making a difference in the lives of children and teens across the nation. In addition to highlighting specific organizations, we’ll also spend some time talking about the benefits that volunteering can have on the life of your child and your family.
The first organization we wanted to spotlight is a non-profit that focuses on inclusion. For those of you that have read the book, the Superheroes Club is all about teaching children the value of empathy, acceptance and inclusion. One of the main characters in the book, Alex, has autism spectrum disorder.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit that is on the forefront of inclusion practices and research. Their mission is to help the world see the ability in every child by helping other organizations and schools meaningfully include kids with disabilities.
We had the opportunity to speak with KIT CEO, Torrie Dunlap, to learn about her perspective on the value of teaching our kids about inclusion and the best way to go about doing so.
Why is it so important to teach kids about inclusion?
TD: Our world is diverse. People we interact with every day think, act, move and communicate in different ways. Helping kids to accept and appreciate differences supports their social-emotional development, builds a positive self-concept, and may reduce aggressive behaviors.
What are a few tips to have conversations with or talk about inclusion with kids?
TD: Kids notice people’s differences and they will have questions. It is important that adults answer their questions in open, honest, and age-appropriate ways. Reading books that features diverse characters, like Superheroes, is a good way to introduce differences in a positive way. It helps to point out the ways people are similar, for instance, we all want to make friends, do well in school, and have fun, even though the ways we go about that might not be the same.
What can we do in our communities to support inclusion?
TD: The best thing we can do is to model an inclusive mindset for the children in our lives. This means being aware of our own biases and working to overcome them. It means having positive social relationships with all kinds of people and sharing them with our children. We can also all be more aware of who may be left out of our classrooms, sports teams, church activities, and camps. We can ask the leaders of these activities how children with diverse needs are accommodated and lend our support by offering to volunteer as an extra set of hands in the class or camp or by sharing Kids Included Together with them as a resource.
If you’d like to learn more about inclusion practices, or Kids Included Together, visit their website at kit.org.