Let me tell you a little story about my own experiences…
Back when I was in a community circus troupe, we would do warm up exercises before every show. They were designed to help us connect as a group, as well as help us prepare physically for the show.
However, many of the games were difficult for me. Such as when we had to walk around the space, and the director would call out a number. We’d have to form groups of that number of people. Anyone who didn’t make it to a group was out. No prizes for guessing I was out first time, every time. Eventually I asked the director if we could change the game a little: maybe instead of yelling out a number, she could stamp her foot on the floor, and then hold up the appropriate number of fingers on her hand. That way, I figured, no-one would be at a disadvantage. It surely wouldn’t be a problem for the hearing people to play by these rules.
But she wasn’t up for that. Instead she arranged another student to walk beside me, and tell me the number when she called it out. In practise, that meant the other student quickly hauled me into a group of an appropriate number, because there wasn’t time for her to communicate it and still get into a group herself. I ended up feeling ‘special’, having to walk with my ‘aid’, and I was a bit embarrassed that it meant she couldn’t play properly either.
In the end, the warm up games became so awkward that I extricated myself and did my own private warm up. It meant that I missed out on the connection with others in the group. But I was more comfortable with that than with the solutions the director came up with. I felt lucky that a couple of other students joined me in my private warm up, as a protest against my lack of inclusion.
I think the reason the director was unable to change her game was because she had established her way of working and she knew it worked, and didn’t want to mess with it. I get that.
But my challenge to you, when you are in a position that involves thinking about including others, is to be prepared to shake things up, in order to accommodate everyone. Surely there’s some way you can set up a group culture, game, experience, outting, in such a way that everyone can participate and no-one needs to feel weird or left out. If you have people with conflicting needs, that’s going to take some creativity. Maybe you split the group into two and have two slightly different activities running at the same time. This doesn’t just apply to teachers and directors. It applies to everyone – to kids playing games with other kids, to organising a celebration dinner..
Whatever, I ask you, be creative, try something new, think outside the box, and make sure EVERYONE can join in.
If you’d like to do your bit to help raise awareness, feel free to share this post. Thanks!