I'm still on cloud nine from what I accomplished at daycare today - I successfully brought two very diverse kids together. It was near the end of the day when this break-through occurred; I only had two kids left in my care - one was a kid who uses a wheelchair and cannot speak and the other was a very outspoken kid who does not use a wheelchair.
The room that we were in at the time has a transportation theme, so there are lots of Fred Flinstone-style
toy cars (that you pedal with your feet), and gas station props for the kids to play with. The kid who doesn't use a wheelchair, who we'll call "Billy", was pretending that the toy car he was driving was out of gas so, instead of grabbing a pretend jerry can, I pushed "Sam", the kid who uses a wheelchair, toward Billy and said that Sam and his wheelchair were the tow-truck (because I've always been told to regard a person's wheelchair as part of the person.) I told Billy that Sam would pull him to the gas station with his chair and a skipping rope but Billy got really upset and screamed, "Sam can't pull me... he can't drive with his legs so he can't be a tow truck!" This was my time, as an educator, to shine and change Billy's mind. I told Billy, "People who use wheelchairs can do everything that people who don't use wheelchairs can do. Sometimes they just have to do those things in slightly different ways... here, Sam and I will show you!" Then, I tied one end of the skipping rope to the back of Sam's chair and the other end of the rope to the front of Billy's car, and began to push Sam's chair forward with Billy in tow. Within seconds, Billy was screaming again... but this time, they were screams of joy. "Yay Sam!" he was shouting, "you're the best tow truck driver ever!" There are no words to describe how proud I felt at that moment.
When the boys seemed as if they had had enough of the tow truck game, we switched to playing catch. Billy, who normally asks me to be his partner, went straight to Sam and asked him
to play catch. I had been replaced, which, isn't always a nice feeling but, in this case, it was the best
feeling. For the rest of the day until their parents/guardians came to pick them up, Sam and Billy played together as if they had been best friends for years. I'm not sure whose smile was bigger as they played - Sam's, Billy's, or mine.
So, I guess, sometimes all it takes is a little persistence to make inclusion work. And, believe me, inclusion is just as rewarding for teachers as it is for students. What I said to Billy worked in this situation, but I'm just curious if you think what I said to Billy about Sam was worded appropriately (and if it could be used in future situations?)