Posted on March 2, 2023 at 4:30 am
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and prompts us to consider our level of awareness, what is and isn’t in place in our community for inclusion of all people of all abilities, and what we can do as individuals and as a community to be open to and inclusive of everyone.
Inclusion requires intentionally. It is not enough to say, “They could have come if they wanted to,” without acknowledging all the systems in place that have separated people with disabilities from communities.
Equality is often interpreted such that everyone gets the same thing. But true equity offers access to each person according to their needs. Unfortunately, it is rare to see this play out in our lives.
At all ages, people with support needs are separated from their peers, and segregation denies people with disabilities access to communities and normalizes othering and isolation. Because this way of operating is so pervasive, most people grow up without experiencing a meaningful relationship with someone who has a developmental disability. This is a disservice to everyone.
Without exposure to different ways of being throughout our lives, people are inclined to become afraid of what they do not understand. It’s easy to fall into the trap of moralizing behaviors we are not familiar with and labeling people with disabilities as bad and deserving of separation from others.
Families of children with disabilities experience the loss of things that most families take for granted.
Sometimes they experience direct rejection. Their child may not be included to participate in a field trip or after-school activities. Social rejection can be more subtle, such as not being invited to playdates and birthday parties.
The experiences pile up and send the message that these families are not welcome.
It can already be logistically challenging to get out into the community because of things like mobility, sensory input, and medical support. When trying something new is so often accompanied by the fear of more negative interactions and rejection, these experiences quickly lead to isolation for families. So getting “out there” often requires being personally invited and assured there will be support.
Spokane County Library District has partnered with The Arc of Spokane’s Parent to Parent program to offer Sensory Storytime to provide more opportunities for families to be intentionally welcomed into the community.
Saturdays, March 4–25, 10–11am
This program is open to people of all ages to come experience the joy of stories, music, play time, and crafts designed to be as inclusive and adaptive as possible.
Creating spaces that challenge our learned preference for people who look and act the same as us is a worthy goal. A low-effort way to learn about disability is to read self-aware, inclusive literature.
I encourage you to think about the characters with disabilities or physical disfigurements you have seen in media throughout your life. Were they presented as a full, complex person?
Most times, these characters are the villain or a challenge for the protagonist to overcome. Alternatively, we see people with disabilities portrayed as inspirational for simply living their lives, which also is an act of othering.
Here are some book recommendations for different ages and reading levels that can challenge our misconceptions about disability and teach us to grow more inclusive communities. These books are available from the SCLD catalog and can be placed on hold for pickup at all SCLD libraries.
Children’s Picture Books
Adults Nonfiction & Memoir
Tami Leitz is The Arc of Spokane’s Parent to Parent Coordinator. She works to empower and support parents, siblings, and caregivers throughout Spokane County who have children with disabilities in their lives. Her program connects them with families of children and adults with support needs or disabilities who’ve had similar journeys. The Parent to Parent program also hosts Sibshops (sibling support groups), parent support groups, trainings, and fun-filled events. Tami is the parent of three daughters including Claire, a 16-year-old with Down syndrome and autism.
Tags: adults, awareness, booklists, books, community, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, disability, kids, parents, reading, story time, teens, tweens