[vc_row el_class=”cyj-post-author”][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”by Rachel Kurinsky” title_align=”separator_align_left”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Inclusion cultivates a warm, safe, judgment free zone. Children, who ordinarily may not be friends, embrace each other in friendship and kindness. What happens when it brings out the exclusive side? I’m better; you are weird. Can we break through that? How do we bring back the judgment-free zone?
We are going to call this boy Bob. Bob is a sweet nine year old who has autism. He is fun, friendly and has a great sense of humor. Bob loves ping pong and wanted to play with some bunk mates. Luckily, he was holding a stress ball right in his hand. He began throwing the ball at the ping pong table. When he saw that was not getting him a pass into the game, he put the ball in his pocket and said, “Can I play?” One of the boys playing immediately said “no.” My heart broke in three, as Bob’s probably did. He just stood there and looked down.
I walked over to the boy at the table and asked him, “Why did you say no?” He said, “What do you mean, he is autistic!” I said “and?” He repeated with his face wrinkled, “Did you not hear? He is Autistic.” I said, “Yes, I heard what you said. Imagine he said that you can’t play because you are shorter than him.” (This camper was a lot shorter than Bob) The camper said, “What?” with a super surprised face. I said, “Exactly, I would never let him say that, and exclude you.” Before I could finish he said, “Bob, come, you can play doubles.”
Saturday as I walked to breakfast, there stood Bob and Sam playing ping pong on their own initiative. Bob’s last day of camp was Sunday. When I was looking through the camper care cards, Sam rated the day 4/5 and wrote that he missed Bob.
Inclusion creates a safe environment for all. We are all different. We all come to camp to make friends and have fun; and that is what unites us. Teaching children that it is ok for us to be different and we are accepted for our differences and loved for who we are provides the greatest foundation for a child. We want our children to be kind, loving and accepting. The only way to teach kindness is to lead by example.