Diversity and the Benefits of Inclusion
Sean Adelman, an orthopedic surgeon, author, and father of a daughter with Down Syndrome, quotes poet William Wordsworth when he says, “the child is father of the man,” a reminder that life lessons are not the exclusive province of the young.
Adelman believes that “it is [a parent’s] job to teach our children how to grow up and function in a society, but we are constantly learning ourselves. They force us to rethink the basics as we help mold them into mature human beings.” But of course, parents aren’t the only ones that have a hand in a child’s development. Schools, teams, and societal interaction also help mold and structure children’s lives, and this is why diversity and inclusion are so important.
“Inclusive education” has proven to be very beneficial to those with learning disabilities, as it integrates special-ed students with non-special-ed students. Adelman outlines how inclusion is advantageous to the entire student body:
- Empathetic Development: Human beings are social creatures that need each other and empathy, creates a better society. When inclusion of special-ed students increased in the 1990s, a study by Zigmond and Baker found that students treated each other better because they learned that everyone needs help from time to time and it’s as gratifying to provide it as to receive it.
- Diversity and the Real World: Children who attend inclusive schools are better able to navigate the complexities of our diverse adult society because they are exposed to different races, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and individuals with or without special needs.
- The Meaning of Friendship: Developing social skills and creating friendships have lasting effects, and friends are reliable emotional resources in a person’s life. Friends know other friends’ limitations and weaknesses, but also their strengths, so trust and strong bonds are formed that allow individuals to flourish.
Sean Adelman is a practicing orthopedic surgeon and advocate for exceptional kids in Seattle. He wrote Sam’s Top Secret Journal (www.raiseexpectations.com), the first in a Nancy Drew-style children’s book series featuring a protagonist with Down Syndrome.