|Micah walking across the stage with a big smile.
|Micah returning to his seat with his friends and family.
As I sat at Micah's graduation, I couldn't help but wonder about some of my own students. How do all families know what is possible for their child? How do peers know what their classmates are capable of? How do my individual students learn to dream, build determination, and constantly advocate for what they need to show what they are capable of?
|Micah with me (his sister!).
Micah reminds me over and over again that this work -- this work of creating the beloved community -- must involve intentional and authentic inclusion. Micah is who he is because inclusion (and Micah!) is working at its very best.
|Micah at his graduation party, looking at his phone.
His inclusion has intentional experiences like attending an inclusive university program that facilitates academic and social interactions on campus, like creating circles of support since he was in elementary school so that when Micah moved from Michigan to New York he knew what he needed to feel supported without his parents nearby, like having parents that constantly, lovingly, and fiercely keep expectations and possibilities high so that phrases like "he's not capable of that" or "that's not within his IQ" doesn't limit him, like using technology so that he is learning what he wants to learn about both possibilities and injustices in the world. These are moments that allow Micah to travel interdependently in his community. These are moments that allow Micah to see that learning is truly a life long process.
|Micah with his parents who are smiling and laughing.
They both just received "Syracuse Dad" and "Syracuse Mom" shirts.
So as I continue to work at better understanding inclusion, now as a teacher and not just as a sibling to Micah, I hold Micah's story.
I hold on to the moments where my students need opportunities to grow academically as mathematicians, readers, scientists, writers, and artists. They need intentional academically rich experiences.
And equally, they need opportunities for authentic experiences. They need opportunities to wear their caps and gowns and cross the graduation stage. They need opportunities to "get in trouble," to learn how to annoy and not annoy their classmates, they need to learn how to stand on stage with their classmates and perform at the music concert, they need to ride a bike (however they do and whatever their "bike" looks like), they need to go to nurse when they fall and go to the nurse when they're bored in class, they need to eat school lunch and sneak in the lunch line to grab a second slice of pizza, they need to share their writing in front of the class, and they need to have friends and community members who constantly help them and their family know what possibilities exists (and have yet to be imagined).
What happens if we don't make inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities intentional and authentic? We limit possibilities and potential for people and deny their (and our) humanness. That's a lot of power.
I don't know what the world will look like for my 1st & 2nd graders in 10 years when they are leaving high school. My hope, like my hope has always been for Micah, is for them to surround themselves with people who challenge them -- people who believe that a sense of safety, confidence, and growth comes from taking risks -- people who see that inclusion must both be intentional, authentic, and always, always on-going.