We All Belong

We All Belong

[ music plays ] My child’s name is Garrett Saye,
and he’s 5 years old. My daughter’s name is Eden,
and she’s 4 years old. My son’s name is August,
and he turns 5 today. Eden will enter kindergarten
this fall. He’ll be entering kindergarten
in fall 2012. My child is entering into
kindergarten fall of 2012. My hopes for Eden in school are that she can go and have fun
and be with the friends she’s already made through
preschool and friends that she’s
yet to meet. He’ll make friends,
he’ll get a great education. Well, I hope for him to be
included and make friends and be happy and be safe
and learn a lot and thrive and be part of his community. My fear for my son
in kindergarten is that he will be looked upon
as his label and not for what he can achieve
and what he can become. One of my fears is that she’ll
be judged before she’s met, whether by teachers
or administrators. That he’ll be left out
of things. That people will not meet her
and see her for her but judge her for things
that are out of her control. This is my son Garrett,
and he has autism. This is my son August. He has a terminal deletion
of chromosome seven. This is my daughter Eden,
and she has Down syndrome. Could someone explain to me the
benefits of segregating people? Can we have a look at where did
the good stuff come when we segregated folk? We’ve learned more. We’ve learned that
that didn’t work. Segregation in this context leads to social isolation
of children with disabilities, which carries over
their entire life. One of the great leaders
of advocacy talks about loneliness
being the biggest disability. If I was to say what’s the
hierarchy of need for children, belonging would be first
on the list. I think kids, if they don’t feel that they’re a part of
something, they develop a loneliness that
— that just can’t be fixed. Well, I think
it’s kind of stupid to be segregated into something
that’s not real. I’m saying it’s not real, it’s because being
in a self-contained classroom and looking
at what’s around you, it seems kind of stupid
that way. The message to those children
in the self-contained classroom is you’re not really equal. You don’t get all the privileges
of this school. The privileges of the hallway, the privileges of going
to the toilet by yourself. The message
to the non-disabled kids is you should be nice to them,
don’t make fun of them, but they’re not really
part of your life. They mostly are saying that people with disabilities
are stupid, they can’t learn, they can’t function in life. I got two jobs already. The civil and human right
of my child to belong is just absolutely
at the forefront of my mind. I have two children. Why do I think
that one of them belongs and the other one doesn’t?
They both belong. I think it’s a really
critical thing of our time that we need to just stop
segregating. It’s a passé notion. It’s something that’s been
more than proved to be unhelpful to us
as a civilized society. I have two daughters. One has a developmental
disability, one does not. The one that has
a developmental disability, before she could go to school, she had to be tested
and evaluated and labeled. And she had to do therapies and this and that
and the other thing. And then we had to have an IEP. And then we had to have
a placement. And then the school had to go
through its traumatic breakdown to find out a kid with
Down syndrome was coming. My non-disabled daughter,
we just dropped her off. If you’ve got a child
with a significant disability, then there’s a team of people
will decide what services your child
will have and where your child
will go to school. And that’s a big disempowering
feeling, I think, for people. The cohort is a group of parents
or family members that have gotten together that
have a belief that their child should be included in
the general education classroom throughout their
educational career so that they benefit both
from exposure to their peers as well as a strenuous,
continuing, age-appropriate curriculum. We just did one that was about
IEP goal-writing and what the IEP document means, and that’s an individual
education plan, which is an incredibly important
legal document that’s going to decide
a lot of things for the year ahead
for your child. But parents generally would go
into that situation without understanding
or having that unpacked. What does this mean
for your child? What does an appropriate
education mean? It means we’re going to take you
from the present level, wherever your child is
right now. We’re going to write goals to where they’re going to be
in a year, and appropriate education is
going to be what gets them there. What the anxiety y’all have when
you go to an IEP meeting is all about placement. I get that. The big mistake
a lot of people make is they come barging
into the room and go, “Please don’t send us
to a self-contained classroom.” And that gets us off
to a bad start because that’s not the order. There is an order
to these things. And the order is
that you adopt goals. Never write a goal
that a dead person can meet. Now, by that I mean “Alicia will
sit quietly in her chair” — who as you can see is already
non-compliant — is not a goal. That is a post-mortem
descriptor. Goals need to be written
in an active voice. My daughter is 5 1/2 and started
kindergarten in September, and my husband and I are
graduates of NWDSA’s first Kindergarten
Inclusion Cohort, which we did the year before
she entered kindergarten. The cohort really gave us
the language to go into the IEP meetings and talk with the school
on equal terms. I didn’t have a lot of the
nitty-gritty tools that you need to help your kid be successful
in the classroom and advocate successfully. So the cohort gave us that. It gave us language,
it gave us tools, it gave us really concrete ideas that we could share
with the teachers. The first time you go through
an evaluation process, they have to have a team meeting
to talk about which evaluations
they’re going to do. You always should be a part
of that process. One of your biggest tools is to request
an independent evaluation. It’s only in response
to a district conducting an evaluation
that you disagree with. But at that point you can say, “I’d like an independent
evaluation.” The district either
has to do that or they have to take you
to a due process hearing, which, I promise you, almost —
has happened maybe once in the 12 years
that I’ve been working. Nine of the ten people did get
the placements that they wanted and felt more than just getting
the placements they wanted, they felt they’d been
an active part of the team that was on an equal footing
and had got valuable information to share about their child. Well, the first thing
to understand about the rights of children
in special education is that it is the intent
of Congress that each child will have an individual plan made
for he or she that will outline
what they’re going to learn over the next year. Once that has been accomplished, they are to be placed in the
least restrictive environment, meaning that they are to be
in regular classrooms unless there’s some reason
not to be. That’s the law. That’s the intent of Congress. And that is the stated policy
of the United States. It’s just not reality. What happens is,
in our education systems, there’s a lot of latitude
on how that’s interpreted, and there’s not a lot
of enforcement. So the reality is, there’s a continuum
between some districts where kids aren’t included
hardly at all, then you have other districts
where all kids are included, and a huge variation
in between. But there’s no
enforcement action, there’s no systematic way
to address those inequities amongst districts and amongst
classrooms throughout America, and it’s a huge issue. And part of the reason parents
struggle to get their kids included
is because there’s no — it’s not been completely
embraced by our culture, and then it’s not enforced,
the law itself is not enforced. Studies have shown that children
that are educated in segregation tend to go on to live lives
in segregation, and I don’t want that type
of life for my child, and I don’t think she wants
that for herself either. She models herself
after her peers, and so having a group of kids that are typical developing
around her helps her learn how best to be
in that society. My child, he’s a visual learner, so what do I want
by way of visual models? I want him to be in a class
with kids that are typically able-bodied and learning from them,
around them, seeing how — what does it mean to be
a 12-year-old is his task as much as school right now, and if he was in
a self-contained classroom with non-verbal children or children with lots
of different behaviors, that wouldn’t be as rich
an environment for him. And to be honest, his classmates
value him in the class, and it wouldn’t be as rich
an environment for them if Daniel wasn’t in that class. The kids that she’s
in school with, who are getting to know her
from the get-go, are also going to be her
potential co-workers, employers, the politicians who are building
the policy in the world that she grows into old age in. And for them to have had her
in their class and to have known her intimately
since she was 5 years old and since they were 5 years old, they’ll remember that
at some level. And I think those are the kids who are really going
to change the world, who you’re really going to see the results of the work
we’re doing now. I took a year of biology, and I studied and took tests
and finals and everything to learn about chromosomes
and pathogens. And what happened was
that I passed all my testings and I got a real diploma,
graduated, just like everybody else did. It just is asking
a little more creativity. And we’re going to have
better teachers if we have more inclusive
classrooms. We’re also going to have
children that grow up knowing each other and don’t see a child with
a disability as that stranger that is in a classroom
at the end of the hall and is a little frightening
perhaps to them. Instead it’s,
“Oh, that’s Daniel, and he’s good at basketball
and he’s not so good at math, but he can help me with
computers.” And I think in one generation,
we could really change a lot. I think that the issue
of kindergarten inclusion is a major civil rights
frontier. What is so terrible about segregating people
into specialized classrooms is that you have
segregated people into specialized classrooms. That’s what’s wrong with it. It’s the exact same answer
that I would give you if I was arguing
Brown v. Board of Education. There is no such thing as
separate and equal education. The world is not an easy place
to live in. Sometimes you have to fight
for what you want and how to get along. I really think that everyone should be included in life,
you know? Steve Holland:
We are going to get there. And I know I’m going to see
my son Daniel get there, and I just hope everybody else
that has challenges like Daniel gets there, too. I feel extremely clear
in my mind that the 21st century
requires us to accept the humanity
of every child and the fact that they can learn
together and truly should belong
in the same community together.


  1. the thing that is wrong with segregating people is that you are segregating people Love that line . This is how we could change the world now one kindergarten class at a time

  2. I have an adult daughter with Down syndrome and this documentary reminded me of the issues when she was in school. It was really easy to include her in elementary and middle school, but once she got into high school, she wasn't included in any classes!

  3. You are my people!! I 100% agree that kindergarten is the ground zero of this movement.  Kudoes to you!!

  4. Here is an anthem to go with it if you want to dance to the theme ! My sons made it a few years ago and are in We All Belong. Please let us know if you decide to use it in presentation we hope you will along with We All Belong   https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=end+the+exclusion

  5. Wow! Your video embodies the educational philosophy we have for our daughter who is 9 and included. Thank you and I can't wait to share with others!

  6. Hope you can make use of this resource in trainings, drop us an e mail if you do at nwdsa.org

  7. This is one of the better film discussions I have seen that blends legal with, what I believe is most important in creating inclusive school communities, relationships and working together. Although it's helpful to know the legal language to use with schools, many of us feel that we have to change the language and the conversation. I've found that to be the most helpful.

  8. Love this everyone – thank you! Michael: "Never write a goal that a dead person can meet"! I am laughing, and then really shocked at how many of those were created for Forrest …a long time ago.

  9. I love this video, I am about to make a new version of this one. The new version will say statements in the background why people want to belong, hope you browse my work it's all about human rights! Great video, I am inspired now on what to write regarding the statements people say. THANKS

  10. We must remember that there is a continuum on which disability levels exist. What is perfect and good for a high functioning healthy person with an intellectual or developmental disability, may not be a constructive or beneficial arrangement for a person of lesser capacity, or with physical and mental illness. Attitudes like "all will" when one cannot, add to stressors on the individual and their carers/family. View all people as individuals.

  11. This is an amazing video on Inclusion for All Means ALL! Kudos to the producers and all of the children and families who are featured!

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