Inclusion: what it is and why it’s important for children and teenagers
Inclusion means that all children and teenagers, regardless of their age and abilities, have the same opportunities to:
- play and learn
- take part in community life
- build relationships with important people in their lives
- feel that they belong.
When children and teenagers have these opportunities, they can grow and thrive.
For children and teenagers with disability, developmental delay or autism, inclusion in early childhood education, school, community groups, family activities, friendships, playgroups and so on is essential to development, learning and wellbeing. Full and meaningful participation and inclusion in society is also one of the rights of all people with disability.
Inclusion: what it looks like for children with disability, developmental delay or autism
When children and teenagers with disability, developmental delay or autism are included, they:
- have opportunities to do things they enjoy with others in their communities – for example, your child gets to play in the park, play Auskick, attend dance or art classes, and so on
- have the same educational opportunities and choices as other students to participate and learn at their local preschool or school – for example, whenever possible, the school or preschool adjusts the way it does things so your child can get around the school, take part in classes and school activities, enjoy extracurricular activities and so on
- succeed because adults have the same high expectations of them as they have for children and teenagers without disability – for example, the cricket coach talks with your child about becoming part of the team’s leadership group
- feel good because teachers and other professionals focus on their strengths, interests and things they enjoy – for example, the preschool teacher knows your child loves puzzles and makes sure there are always new and challenging ones for your child to enjoy
- can express their needs – for example, your child has a say in developing the goals for their NDIS plan
- are protected from bullying – for example, school policies and staff ensure all children are safe, have someone to go to when they need help, and can expect quick action if bullying happens
- are supported by parents and professionals working together as a team – for example, you and your child’s teacher trust each other and communicate regularly about your child’s progress.
It can help to talk to other families or organisations to understand how you can best support your child to be included.
Discrimination: when children and teenagers aren’t included
Sometimes children aren’t included or are treated unfairly or less fairly because of their disability. Or you might be treated unfairly or less fairly because you’re the parent of a child with disability.
In Australia, it’s against the law to exclude or prevent a person with disability from doing something that a person without disability could do.
There are some exceptions to this, including when making adjustments to accommodate disability causes ‘unjustifiable hardships’. For example, a small business like a shop or family day care operator might not be able to afford to replace a set of stairs with a ramp to accommodate a wheelchair.
You might need to be an advocate for your child if you think your child is being discriminated against, isn’t having their needs met, is being denied their rights, or is at risk of harm. You can also make a complaint under anti-discrimination laws.