Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Inclusion and What It Means From Our Kids' Point of View

It's that time of year. Graduations. So much possibility. For many high school students it means college, for some it means entering the trades or training programs. For a very few, it means entering transition programs, hopefully, pursuing what they love. This time of year also means graduation from college, and for some, from those transition programs. 

I have a guest post today. It's from a dear friend whose daughter is an incredibly talented young woman who also happens to have a disability. She's very lucky in her parents, who have tirelessly fought to provide her with support to pursue her passion for music. As she graduates from Berkshire Hills Music Academy (BHMA), she enters into the "cliff" phase of life for people with disabilities. The next fight is to find a place where her talents are not just appreciated, but celebrated. That is no small task. 

I'll warn you to have a box of tissues handy as you read my friend's post and watch the video of her daughter's speech at graduation. 

What a day yesterday ...so full of possibility.
Today we are back home, still basking in Julia's accomplishments, but also wondering, how to make it all possible. How to help her fulfill her dream.
After listening to the 15 BHMA graduate's speak about, their struggles, fears and now, their accomplishments....you can only see how important it is, to educate, support, give opportunities and include. 
What we were reassured, after hearing them, is that they may be differently abled, but they are surely ABLE.
The Keynote speaker was Dan Habib, photojournalist and documentarian (award-winning film Including Samuel). (See his TEDTalk on inclusion here.)
As father of a disabled child, he spoke from the heart about Inclusion.He relayed how he has seen firsthand how his son's presence has brought out the better in those around him and how at the same time his life has been enriched with the interaction.
As a parent of a special needs child, our learning comes every day, with every moment. Although it's no easy road, it's one full of reward, when accomplishment comes. Yet, it's difficult to do it alone. All we want is for our children to have opportunities and acceptance. Not much to ask, you say?... in reality, difficult to achieve.
As our speaker said (and I'm paraphrasing) having these special individuals participate in our communities fully, will makes us all better for it .As you will hear firsthand from Julia, to some it may come as a surprise, that our "Happy" girl, who is known, for always having a beautiful smile on her face, at times that smile , was not in her heart.
I ask you all to help us and commit to continuing to together build a stronger caring community with INCLUSION.
Here is Julia's speech Now take out the tissue box....#inclusion #differentlyabled #danhabib #bhma

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