News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Inclusion Beyond the Classroom

JCCHD | Sat, April 02, 2016 | [Applied Behavior Analysis][Autism Treatment][Community][Events]

Many of us are familiar with the role of inclusion the classroom, but what about beyond? In order for inclusion to be truly effective it is vital that it reaches outside of the school environment and is adapted for recreational and social activities. All too often, children with special needs are left out of   extracurricular activities or social events. In order for inclusion to be successful, ALL parents, teachers, and community members need to be committed to full inclusion for all children.

When people with autism are invited to participate in all activities the benefit is great. Allowing and encouraging new interactions helps children with autism to better understand social and developmental norms, they are more likely to learn positive social and emotional behaviors, and feelings of isolation and loneliness are addressed. More importantly, people with autism have a lot to offer their peers.


For people who do not have autism, the benefits of getting involved in social and recreational settings with children who have developmental differences are tremendous. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to, and build relationships with, a diverse population have a higher positive level of understanding and are more accepting and tolerant of people they perceive as different than themselves. Sharing a common interest, hobby, or even a lunch table at summer camp, allows children to break down boundaries and build authentic friendships. In addition to friendships being formed, inclusion allows for a child to act as an “expert” in beloved fields. Sharing information and helping peers provides an amplified sense of self-esteem, confidence, autonomy, and leadership skills for all children.
To have a better understanding of how substantial the positive effects of inclusion are, take a minute to read this letter. Addressed to a fellow classroom mother who not only extended a birthday party invitation to her son, but was conscientious of her sons needs, Ms. Klein was finally able to allow her son to participate knowing he would be in a safe, accepting (and fun) environment!

If you are looking for more inclusion opportunities, a good place to start is this webinar presented by Jeanna Hill from The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development. Parents can check out organizations that focus on inclusion, including the National Inclusion Project, your local Boys & Girls Club of America, and the YMCA; many have programs designed to accommodate people with varying developmental needs while still providing enjoyable and engaging activities for everyone involved.

When planning to be more “inclusive,” keep your child’s interests in mind and look for inclusion activities that he or she would enjoy. Sharing common interests is the best way to create a connection and develop lasting friendships. If you are planning a birthday party or social event, consider these five tips to make the children (and their parents) feel comfortable attending. And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!

Walker, Pam. “Promoting Inclusion in Recreation and Leisure Activities: An Information Package.” Therapeutic Recreation Directory . National Resource Center on Supported Living and Choice, Aug. 1999. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Henninger IV, William R., and Sarika S. Gupta. "How Do Children Benefit from Inclusion?." Brooks Publishing, 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .