Professional Development

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Supporting Disability Inclusion in Your Community

My first experience with the National Afterschool Association was in 2004, when I was accepted as a presenter at the annual convention. Kids Included Together—KIT—was a tiny startup at that time. Going to the NAA Convention to speak about disability inclusion was such a big deal that my colleagues presented me with a gift basket before I left for Florida.

Today, NAA is a powerful force in the out-of-school time movement and KIT has delivered inclusion training to over 100,000 people in 48 states and 13 countries. In 2019, NAA and KIT joined forces to ensure kids of all abilities can benefit from afterschool programs.

At Kids Included Together, our vision is a world where every child can realize their full potential in a welcoming, inclusive community. We know it's possible. We see powerful examples of inclusion every day, in programs like yours. We see kids like Alejandro, a 6-year-old with diagnosed learning disabilities, who struggles during the school day but thrives in his afterschool program; Allyson, a 9-year-old with Down syndrome, who discovered her love of science in her afterschool program; and Brandon, a 10-year-old with autism who excels academically but needs extra support with social relationships—whose birthday party was populated with friends not from his fifth-grade class, but from his afterschool program.

The biggest barrier to overcome in making this possible for kids like Alejandro, Allyson and Brandon was fear. We are all afraid of what we don't understand.

When Alisha, a program director, came to us, she was frustrated that her staff didn't know how to adapt their activities to meet the diverse needs of the youth they served. With guidance from KIT, Alisha provided her team with inclusion checklists, training videos and time for planning. These tactics are making all the difference: The kids are supported, families are happy, and her staff is confident they can support any child who enrolls.

Imagine what would happen if we could make every afterschool program a place where every child can thrive. Let's take a step toward that vision today, together.

Written by Torrie Dunlap, Chief Inclusionista/CEO, Kids Included Together.

This article was adapted from and originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of AfterSchool Today.