Inclusivity in the classroom has several benefits: it encourages diversity, fosters empathy, reduces bullying, improves academic performance, and builds a foundation for future success by providing children with the tools and skills needed to navigate a diverse world.
Including a Child with Disabilities
Including a child with disabilities in a classroom program requires careful planning and consideration to ensure that the child feels included and valued. Here are some tips for how a presenter could appropriately include a child with disabilities in their program:
- Communicate with the child’s teacher or caregiver: The first step in including a child with disabilities in a program is to communicate with the child’s teacher or caregiver to learn about the child’s needs and abilities. This will help the presenter understand how to modify their program to ensure the child can participate fully. *This will be done ahead of time for you by the Youth Program team at BC Transit. They will identify any accessibility needs and help you come up with ways to include children who have disabilities in the presentation.
- Use inclusive and person-first language: When addressing the class, use language that is inclusive and respectful of all abilities. Avoid using ableist language or making assumptions about what the child with disabilities can or cannot do. Person-first language is a way of referring to individuals with disabilities by emphasizing their personhood rather than their disability. It involves putting the person first, rather than defining them solely by their disability. For example, instead of saying “disabled person,” person-first language would say “person with a disability.” The goal of person-first language is to promote respect, dignity, and inclusivity for people with disabilities. It acknowledges that individuals with disabilities are people first and foremost, with their disability being only one aspect of their identity.
- Modify activities and provide accommodations: Modify the activities in the program to ensure the child with disabilities can participate. For example, if the program involves a physical activity that the child may not be able to do, offer an alternative activity that is more appropriate for the child’s abilities. Provide any necessary accommodations for the child with disabilities, such as extra time to complete tasks, seating that is more comfortable, or access to assistive technology.
- Be flexible and ask for help: Be prepared to make changes on the fly if the child with disabilities needs additional support or accommodations. Flexibility and adaptability are key to ensuring the child feels included in the program. Ask the teacher for help in problem solving if needed – they know the child best and can help you with accomodating to their needs.
By following these tips, a presenter can appropriately include a child with disabilities in their program and create a welcoming and inclusive environment in the classroom.
Note on Person-First Language:
It is important to note that not all individuals with disabilities prefer person-first language. Some individuals may prefer identity-first language, which acknowledges their disability as an integral part of their identity. When in doubt, using person-first language is a safe and respectful option.
Taylor’s Tips: Paraphrasing
When talking and interacting with children about accessibility on buses, we often discuss different reasons why someone may need courtesy seating. We also talk about the accessibility features on the bus, which you can learn more about in the ‘Accessibility Features’ section of the Bus Tour lesson.
I have found paraphrasing to be incredibly helpful during this segment of the presentation, especially because children may not know the correct terms for people with disabilities. For example, when they are asked a question like “Who else may need to use courtesy seating?” they may not use the correct language. Paraphrasing can be useful in this situation because you repeat back what they say, but in the correct terms. It’s like you are translating what they said into person-first language.
For instance, if a child answers the above question with “Someone whose legs don’t work!”, I will always paraphrase what they say into something like “Yes! Someone who uses a wheelchair, or a person who has a mobility challenge – you’re absolutely right.” This is also helpful any time you are asking questions because you can paraphrase and change their answer into being exactly what answer you were looking for to help move on to the next part of the presentation.