(For the record I also have a very charming 15 year old step-son, I have excluded him from my categories to spare his embarrassment!) It is natural to categorise and sometimes quite necessary. Just to clarify, I have a six year old girl and boy/girl twins age two.
My boy has profound and multiple learning difficulties.
The twins’ are developing at different rates entirely, but where possible we’ve tried to ensure a level of equality, so if girl twin (M) was awake from her nap, boy twin (T) would be awoken and encouraged to play. Later on if M was having a go at feeding herself then T would be supported in doing so too. I stand by the fact that being a twin has helped us to encourage our son to be the best he can be. We have in his twin sister sort of a constant variable. She has been the driving force in us pushing and challenging our son, a positive role model, a demonstrator of toys, a tease and a lot of fun!
His big sister (L), whilst sensitive to his limitations, sees T as a little brother and talks only of his disabilities when she introduces new friends to her siblings. She contributes to our inclusive household by challenging us as to why both twins can’t join in, she insists on fairness! The structure of our family has ensured that our children are as far as possible included equally in everything we do, it’s as if we had no choice in the matter.
The choice came a year ago when we needed childcare and it was clear that the only place that could adequately meet T’s needs was our local special school. How could they make the most of being twins in completely separate environments? We struggled to make the decision to split them up, but it soon became clear that there really wasn’t a decision to make, the twins are in different categories and need very different things from their care and education.
A year later and I can hand on heart say that both children are thriving in their different environments. They are individuals who share wide and varied experiences independently from each other whilst evenings and weekends consist of sibling fun and fighting- just as it should be. T’s lovely school is federated with a mainstream school, I have high hopes for the positive impact of inclusion to continue for him. His teacher is young, enthusiastic and understanding of T’s needs.
M enjoys going to a childminder who is fun and energetic, she loves the outdoors and M loves her. I could not be happier with our childcare ‘choices’.
Sadly, the term ‘inclusion’ is sometimes linked to negative experiences of children being placed in the wrong environments. To me it’s about offering opportunities which are available to others, blending together and finding out what happens. I think there has to be an element of trial and error because the categories for children are endless and environments will offer various challenges too.
In my opinion being inclusive at home, at school, in the community is the right thing to do, but above all as my six year old would say “it’s fair”!