Dehumanization is one of the great societal tragedies. Once we dehumanize a group we are free to exclude them, deny their rights, and inflict violence.
Inclusion Prevents Dehumanization
Whenever a particular group experiences dehumanization it is the weakest among them who face the most extreme consequences. On most occasions these are those with disabilities.
Inclusion prevents dehumanization. When a group is included they become real to the mainstream population. What makes them real is the creation of physical, emotional, and intellectual ties or connections. In short, inclusion makes those previously excluded fully human. When this occurs the mainstream population finds it much more difficult to exclude them socially, deny their rights, or inflict violence. This creation of relationship connections resulting in humanization is the greatest argument for comprehensive inclusion (more on that later).
Leaving Social Segregation Behind
When my son joined his first sports league we were encouraged to place him on the special needs team. This team competed against other special needs teams. It was and remains an extraordinary service, but for my son it was the first time he was separated from his typical friends. In fact, the majority of his friends were typical, which meant being on this team was an innocent but nevertheless limiting form of social segregation.
While we enjoyed our time in this league it became apparent, that if this pattern were to continue, he would effectively be segregated from typical children his entire life. Having grown up in a typical environment, and been guilty of ignorantly excluding children with special needs, this looked like a formula for continuing patterns of the past to me. I wanted to change this not only for my son, but for every child of the 21st century be they typical or special needs.
This lead me to found and launch an inclusive sports program called E-Soccer in 2000. From this starting point a collection of friends and partners have helped us expand into a complete E-Sports program.
5 Levels of Inclusion
The years since 2000 have seen an expansion of inclusive thinking and programs around the country. My experience with E-Sports as well as countless other educational and community efforts has been both refreshing and inspiring.
I have learned inclusive programs create empathy in typical children and confidence in those with special needs. While every form of inclusion does not necessarily have this effect, those who practice what I call comprehensive inclusion are successful.
My personal research has helped me develop a defined view of comprehensive inclusion. I have observed five levels, and believe any one comprises success. Achieving comprehensive inclusion means all five levels have been achieved on some level. You will find a brief description of each level below.
- Community – This is social inclusion which can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual.
- Connection – This is emotional inclusion, which results in meaningful relationships between typical and special needs individuals.
- Contribution – This is intellectual inclusion, where the individual with special needs develops a sense of dignity, as they use their ability to make a personal or group contribution to the community.
- Contemplation – This is spiritual inclusion where the individual is able to pursue some form of meaning and purpose.
- Comprehensive – Comprehensive inclusion occurs when the individual has experienced 1-4, and benefits from the latest scientific and medical research, as they grow into adulthood and an ever improving quality of life.
In my opinion, inclusion is the future, but the quality of implementation will determine the level of success. We cannot merely advocate for inclusion, but must make certain we are creating programs capable of effectively implementing it, so everyone can experience as many levels as possible.