Including Victoria, as anyone who knows me at all knows, is the title of a book I am attempting to write about my experiences parenting a child with developmental disabilities. I say attempting because, like most of you, I have a remarkably full plate in all ways other than the one I sit before at meal time (since I am also committed to shedding unwanted pounds I have acquired over the years, no matter how much they add to my over all attractiveness not to mention my TVQ!)
Well anyway, I was thinking about this concept of “Inclusion” while treading water at our local YMCA. Victoria, my own daughter with disabilities, swims there daily. She is up to 52 laps, which takes her a little under one hour. This hopefully keeps her in fine physical shape and helps her digestive system operate efficiently. It allows me to develop a nicely textured prune-like skin from treading water for the hour.
Now I know you are asking yourself, “Well, what does this have to do with ‘Inclusion” and why doesn’t he just swim himself?” Good questions. Let me answer your second question first, as President Clinton used to say. I am a terrible swimmer. I grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas. During my childhood there were no swimmers in my family and no opportunity to “go swimming”. There was a country club in Leavenworth. Even Leavenworth had a Country Club “set “and we were certainly not “of it”. I had known of numerous folk drowning in the Missouri River, upon which Leavenworth was founded, right down river from Ft. Leavenworth high on the cliffs of Esplanade looking out on the flat bottom land of tobacco and soy bean crops in Missouri. This kept me out of the river in summer and off of it in the dead of winter when others used it for ice-skating.
I did finally get into a pool at the age of 14, but by then it was way too late. More of this will come in a later post.
As far an “Inclusion” goes, most people understand it as an attempt to take an individual who is currently “excluded” from some particular activity due to their disability and provide them with access to the activity.
Essentially this provides access for 'A' to do what 'B' does. The reasoning here is that, first and foremost, it is 'A's civil right to this access, the obstacle to the activity has less to do with 'A's disability and more to do with society’s own arbitrary and artificial handicapping situations, 'A' will benefit immensely from this activity, and lastly 'B' will in someway benefit as well from 'A' achieving this access.
It was during this hour of meditation that I had another epiphany. I have spent so much of my life, for the past 24-plus years, advocating for and creating this inclusion because I wanted Victoria to benefit from it; to have a higher quality of life. There is no doubt this has occurred and I (sort of) take it for granted. I mean, it is the reason I am doing all this, right? But what I realized at that particular moment is that it is really Victoria who is including us in her life.
I imagine you can see where I am going with this. If not, not to worry, I will be writing about it here much more. I will also be writing about it in Including Victoria, and when VCR (using her initials is easier sometimes) and I speak publicly, I will certainly be speaking about it.
By the way, this public speaking is something Victoria and I have done a fair amount of before, and are taking up again. I have been asked to be the Keynote Speaker at the Association of Self Advocates of North Carolina (ASANC) in March of 2009 and have eagerly accepted. Ms. Karen Moyes Stallings, one of ASANC’s leaders and a faithful supporter of [with]tv, has helped make this happen. Take a look at their website when you get a chance. They have an important mission and do excellent work. http://www.asa-nc.org/