Inclusive Models

What does authentic inclusion look like?  Here are some of my favorite programs, experiences and opportunities designed to include kids and adults with developmental, learning and communication differences in the real world.

The Discoveries Program at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

If there's one place in the world where authentic inclusion is likely to be tough, it's a world-famous art museum.  That's one reason why Discoveries, which has been around for decades, is so extraordinary.  In essence, the program offers folks with developmental differences - along with their family and friends! - to take part in small, carefully-crafted tours of the museum's galleries, followed by a classroom workshop. No, they are not going to "special" galleries, or drawing with "special" pencils, or exploring only when others are not around.  Instead, they are a part of the museum's ordinary, daily program experiences - and yes, they are seeing REAL Van Gogh's, REAL Greek marbles, and REAL fellow museum visitors!

The YMCA

I am a big Y booster.  As a special needs mom, I've worked with a local Y to create an inclusive summer camp program.  As a fundraising writer, I've visited over two dozen Y's across the country.  Here's what makes the Y extraordinary for authentic inclusion:

  • Everyone is welcome at the Y. Really.  Your child with special needs will not need to beg for inclusion: inclusion goes without saying.
  • Age and location are not an issue.  If your child likes your local Y, he will be welcome there forever.  If you move, there will probably be a Y within driving distance.
  • You can be wealthy or without two nickels to rub together.  There are financial aid programs available at every Y.
  • Sports programs are about fitness and fun.  It is very rare to see a Y where competition is primary - and even when that's the case, there are opportunities for kids who just want to play.
  • There are programs, staff and members at every Y in the country ready to help you pay for your membership and take part in just about anything from Adventure Guides to camps to swimming to fitness programs to sports leagues.  
  • Many Y's also offer after school programs for kids, enrichment programs for adults, special opportunities for seniors, and so forth.
Perhaps most importantly, the Y has a program in place called Character Counts.  This program is for real.  When they say they care about Honesty, Respect, Caring and Responsibility they are not kidding.  Every program teaches and reinforces those values.  At every Y.  If you don't see the program you want for your child or yourself, talk with the staff.  Chances are, they'll work with you to make it happen.

A sampling of programs:

Camp Outlook is the inclusive summer camp I developed with the Y in Ambler, PA
Inclusive programs for kids with special needs in Berkeley.
Inclusive day camp in Ontario.