Last school year my youngest daughter befriended a young boy, Jonathan in her class with Down Syndrome. A few months into the school year she and my older daughter were having regular conversation about playing with Jonathan. Throughout that stretch of time I was met by periodic questions and comments about why Jonathan. Why doesn’t Jonathan say words? Why does Jonathan have different rules than other children? Why does Jonathan have his own teacher? Many times the questions came across as rhetorical. It sounded like the came out of a conversation that the teachers had with the students. The questions were more about receiving confirmation from me, a former early childhood special educator and researcher of high-quality inclusive education. But I wasn’t confirming what other adults were telling them. Most often, I was clarifying misconceptions.
About a week ago, I was supervising my daughters as they played on a playground. This was a new playground for us. It was pretty typical. A ground cover of wood chips, slides, bars to climb across, walls to climb up, etc. They also had six swings, two for babies and toddlers, two traditional and, less common two adaptive swings. These swings are typically blue or red, look like an upright reclining chair, and have four chains connecting them to the cross bar; two in the front and two in the back. They are designed to support children who do not have the size, core strength or muscle tone to sit on the other swings. Also rare for playgrounds were the rubber walkway/ramps that wove through the wood chips. Each ramp lead to a piece of playground equipment. I took brief notice of these features, but I didn’t consider them something worth pointing out to the children. I was wrong.