Every parent’s dream for their child is for them to be included and to lead happy, healthy, and fulfilled lives. Many times, students with disabilities are denied this and are consistently left behind, feeling isolated, and become disengaged. This puts tremendous strain on families and is emotionally devastating for the student. Melinda Jennis, Pathways founder, saw the sadness in her son’s eyes as he realized he was different from his peers and felt excluded. She experienced first hand the pain of her son being excluded from his peers and access to many opportunities he saw his peers enjoying. It did not take long before she also saw the benefits of the “children teaching children” model. There was no question her son learned better and was more motivated learning from his peers than adults. A research study led by educational psychologist Connie Kasari, Ph.D., of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment showed that training classmates produces greater gains in social inclusion than even one-on-one training between therapist and chiId (J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2012; 53(4): 431-9.) This only confirmed “the children teaching children model” Pathways had been using successfully since its inception in 2002.
It is critical to also remember that the responsibility for including children does not stop when the bell rings at school. The community must collaborate with schools and families so that students with disabilities are consistently embraced and included in community recreation and other extra-curricular programs. After-school programs can be developed so that students of all abilities can build relationships and teach one another in various recreation activities. This also creates bonds between children that continue both in school and after school. Bringing the “Include ME!” program to your school and community, can start you off on the right track to changing your culture to include everyone. Pathways is much more than an organization, we have created a movement where all that join are amazed by the empowerment diversity can bring. Check out the tabs below to learn more about how to bring Pathways to your school and community and what incredible impact it will have on the students and families where you live!
Join the movement. Bring Include ME! to your school and community!