SPONSORED STORY: Every child deserves to feel included in their school and one program is working to encourage Australian kids to raise awareness of disability and support and promote practical inclusion within their classrooms
Developed by National Disability Services, the K-12 Inclusion Challenge asks school-aged children from kindergarten through to Year 12, to create a simple, creative, low to no-cost inclusion innovation for their school.
Participants can also win one of 15 cash prizes, ranging in value between $750 and $1,500 which they are able to use in the classroom, the school or to bring their inclusion idea to life.
K-12 Inclusion Challenge Project Manager, Dr. Georgina Reynhout has an extensive history working in the education and disability sectors, alongside lived experience as the devoted mother of her daughter Lucy, who has a disability.
“At certain stages during her schooling, Lucy wasn’t included in some activities and this caused her great suffering and grief. As a parent it was painful to experience,” she says.
“Her diagnosis of moderate intellectual disability belies the fact that she has high emotional intelligence.”
Dr Reynhout says “school is tough on any child” and works hard to ensure other children feel valued and included in their classrooms, after witnessing the daily challenges her daughter faced.
“We have taken every opportunity to tell Lucy that she is unconditionally loved and valued as a person,” she says.
“There are lots of challenges and learning. Unfortunately, for Lucy some of her schooling experiences meant that she felt that she wasn’t included. There wasn’t opportunity for the kids to learn and understand the importance of inclusion nor put this into practice.”
The K-12 Inclusion Challenge provides the opportunity to explore the wonderful, innovative and often surprising ideas sparked by a child’s imagination.
“Kids absorb information and can come up with practical solutions that sometimes as an adult we don’t see,” Dr Reynhout says.
“If Lucy had been fully supported through her schooling, and felt included and secure in her schooling, her life and mine would have been very different. It would have been amazing.”
Building on well-established frameworks in schools, the K-12 Inclusion Challenge is building capacity, emotional intelligence and teamwork skills in Australian kids.
Inclusion is built on three key foundations:
- Include – all students belong and participate in activities. Equal access and opportunity is provided in each of the following contexts: physical, social and curricular.
- Enable – students are empowered to reach their full potential and participate effectively in all aspects of school life, receiving all the support they need. Including development of personality, talents and creativity, as well as cognitive and physical ability.
- Embrace – diversity is acknowledged, respected and viewed as a resource for learning, growth and change.
“The central message of inclusion is simple: every learner matters and matters equally,” Dr. Reynhout says.
“There are many things kids can do to improve inclusion in schools. Kids are incredibly creative… the purpose of the Challenge is to harness this creativity and use student voice to drive new inclusive initiatives in schools.”
To enter, students simply need to develop a one page description of their inclusion idea and film a short video of their school.
Entries are open to all school-aged children (Kindergarten to Year 12) until the first week of December and all children are encouraged to work together to develop a practical inclusion solution.
For more information and how to get involved click here.