Wade has cerebral palsy. His lack of purposeful body movement and spoken language have not deterred the teachers and school staff from fully including Wade throughout the school day.
The students in Wade’s class have been in class with him since preschool. He is their classmate and their friend. The students learned along the way how to communicate with Wade. They’ve learned what he likes and dislikes. They laugh together.
They invite Wade to their birthday parties. They push Wade’s wheelchair when he needs a push. They hold open the door. They do a fist bump. These students don’t know that inclusion is a thing; they just know that Wade is their friend and classmate.
Recently, Wade’s class was working on a math software program. In the program, students created an avatar character that looked like themselves. They chose the hair, skin color, clothes, and accessories. Each time the students finished a section of math successfully, they could spend their earned points on buying more accessories (such as ball caps, basketballs, or bicycles) for their avatar.
As the math teacher walked around the room, he noticed something that surprised him. On one of the male student’s screens, he saw that the boy had purchased a wheelchair for his avatar. As he studied the boy’s avatar seated in the wheelchair, he thought what a kind gesture it was. After all, this boy was a good friend of Wade’s. He smiled and continued around the room.
A few seats down the teacher noticed that another boy had also bought his avatar a wheelchair. The teacher was moved that these two boys would put their avatars in wheelchairs like their friend Wade.
The teacher soon realized that a good number of kids in the class had purchased neckties, basketballs, skateboards, and …wheelchairs.
That’s when the teacher realized the gravity of what was happening: To these kids, a wheelchair was as normal an accessory as a ball cap. They weren’t buying the cool wheelchair on the math software program to make a point or a statement. The kids were buying the wheelchair because it was just a normal thing to buy. Moving around in a wheelchair was commonplace to them.
Ever wonder if inclusion works? Ever wonder whether inclusion benefits all children? Look no further. Wade’s classmates are proof that inclusion is a powerful thing.
From the moment Camila was born, I knew she would change my world. But it was not until third grade when she made the comment “I don’t want to live anymore” that I realized things were not right.