This video is of Aaron Devries and his Tedx talk on The Power of Inclusion. Check out the 7 minute speech that brought everyone to their feet.

Inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom is powerful. It not only benefits those students with disabilities but also their peers and the whole community.

A passionate advocate for full inclusion for students with disabilities, DeVries shares stories of failure and success. He shares that we have come along way but there are still things that need to be done. In the end he wants everyone to Stand Up for Inclusion!!!

The following is a transcript of the video.

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved music. She loved listening to the radio, she loved to sing but most of all she loved it when her dad sang to her before bed time. I love you my daughter, I love you my daughter, I love you my daughter, my daughter I love you. You’re beautiful my daughter, you’re beautiful my daughter, you’re beautiful my daughter, my daughter I love you. One day her choir teacher told her that she’d be singing in a historic theater in her hometown. She was so excited she came home and memorized the songs in two days. The time for the concert came and they went off without a hitch she sang like an angel and she had fun on stage with her friends. Her parents enjoyed seeing her on stage but their heart ached a little bit. The reason their heart ached a little bit is that she uses a wheelchair to get around and the stage wasn’t handicap accessible. So instead of her getting up onto the stage by herself her mom had to place a chair on the stage while her dad picked her up and carried her and put her in the chair on the stage. Those concerts took place five weeks ago at the Paramount Theater, the girl in the story is my daughter and I am the dad who carried her up onto the stage.

My job is not to save the princess like Mario does in Super Mario Brothers. My job is to help the princess become the best princess she can be and I believe inclusion has the power to do just that.

Inclusion is defined as the “act of including, or the state of being included,” We have always included our daughter wherever we go in the community. If we go to church she comes to church, if we go to the 4th of July Fireworks she comes and watches them with us. If we go to the fair to look at the smelly farm animals she’s there smelling them right with us. But little did we know the power of inclusion was already working.

As she has grown older she has been in girl scouts and had the opportunity to ride a horse for the first time. For the last two years she has been in Miracle League T-Ball where she goes once a week to Rochester to play with other kids with disabilities. On Wednesday nights she goes and joins her Jr. High friends in a class at our church. There has been several occasions over the years where people come up to us and say “It is so nice you always include your daughter in whatever you are doing, you are great parents.” I usually say “Thank you” but at the same time I am thinking “of course we are including her isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?”

But then I remember that the treatment for those with disabilities has improved greatly over the years. Our daughter is able to live at home with us because of the laws that have been passed and the supports that are in place. She is able to attend a neighborhood school and she is able to be in a general education setting with her peers for most of the day. And every Friday morning at 7:10 AM she is at school singing her heart out with her friends in choir.

But even though we have come a long way there is still more that needs to be done.

Right now at this very moment there are students with disabilities who are segregated in self-contained classrooms.
Right now at this very moment there are students with disabilities who do not go to their neighborhood school because either it’s not handicap accessible or the special education program is in a different building.
Right now as we speak there are students in elementary schools learning life skills they are folding laundry, they are picking up recycling and sorting it and they are copying papers while their peers are in the classroom learning math and reading.
Right now as we speak there are students with disabilities who have no choice but to ride a special education bus because that’s the way the bus company wants to do it.

As much as I would love to tell you the things I just shared were fiction sadly they are not.

Inclusion in a school setting is when special education students are included with their peers in the general education classes. When students with disabilities are fully included all students benefit. Inclusion is powerful. As our daughter has been included more in the regular classroom we have witnessed the power of inclusion first hand. She has been invited to birthday parties, she’s had a sleepover after the homecoming game, but most of all she likes when she gets those phone calls from her friends, they talk about their day at school, they talk about boys which makes this dad a little nervous, but the best thing she likes to talk about is her favorite singer Justin Bieber.

In addition to seeing the benefits our daughter receives studies have shown inclusion is powerful for those students without disabilities as well. Students perform better in an inclusive setting, students without disabilities also gain life skills they gain acceptance, they gain patience, and they gain respect.

Inclusion is Powerful!!! The power of inclusion lies in its ability to bring everyone together in such a way that each person’s abilities can shine through.

“A community that excludes even one member is not a community at all.”

Every person has a purpose, every person has a gift, every person has something they to contribute to the community.

If we exclude people, if we segregate people, if we look down on them because they are different we are no community at all.

I believe that if we include students with disabilities from the beginning all of the students will grow up to be adults who value each others differences and they will work together to transform the world into a more inclusive place for those with disabilities.

If you are already standing up for inclusion I want to say thank you and keep up the good work.
If you believe all men are created equal STAND UP for Inclusion
If you believe every student deserves to be included STAND UP for inclusion
If you believe “We are better together” STAND UP for inclusion

Thank you

Are you standing up for inclusion? Tell us how in the comments section below.