Is inclusion a two way street?

Hello everyone!

I have not done a blogpost in awhile and today I am hoping to start off by doing one a week until September. I am applying for an opportunity that I think will help me professionally and help Camp Allen at the same time. One of the questions asked was about what “my vision was for my leadership in the field of disability.” Today I am going to write about part of my answer to that question.

Inclusion is a word that we hear a lot about in this field. For kids, a lot of individualized education plans will focus on how to include the child into either mainstream classrooms or the community as a whole. It is my opinion that every person regardless of ability should be in the least restrictive learning environment. Without inclusion we restrict an individuals growth, and we also restrict the understanding of those outside the community. My question to the reader is this, “do you think we put so much focus into including people with disabilities that we lose sight of recruiting open minded people without personal experience into our community?

At Camp Allen it has been a personal policy of mine to hire staff that have limited experience working in the field of disability. There are three main reasons I do this. The first is people with limited experience are easier to train. They come to camp with no preconceived notion on what the work entails and I have found they ask better questions and fully immerse themselves into training. Secondly is they bring a certain creativity to the role, based on their life experiences. When I was a counselor I had no experience and to communicate and build a bond with my camper I had to use the skills I had. After a few nervous days, I looked at the top of my bunk and said to myself, “I can talk to my friends, and these campers are my friends. So I will talk to them like I would anyone else.” And like that it clicked. I am no better than anyone else in this field, I know how to talk to my friends, and that has helped me all these years. Lastly and most importantly, I hire people with limited experience because it grows our community just a little bit larger with each new counselor at Camp Allen. So many of our former counselors have gone on to be direct care professionals, case managers, nurses, and doctors because of their experience at Camp Allen. Whether they work directly with people with disabilities or not, their initial experience allows them to be more open minded about giving opportunities to others. Is this not essential to inclusion, to have people willing to provide opportunities to people with disabilities? To me, inclusion is a two way street. I have heard from people that work in the field with other agencies that it is so hard to find good people. Maybe it is the case that we are not including open minded people to be a part of this community. Experience is not a bad thing and I do not want people to finish reading this thinking that is my assumption. Experience is wonderful and we rely on our returning counselors to pass on their knowledge to new staff, but what I do believe is that it should not be the determining factor when hiring in this field. We have had wonderful people work at Camp Allen and I believe it is because we focus on what you can do, not what you have done.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! As always I welcome discussion! Hope all is well,


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