In our All The Doo Dah Day face to face classes and our All The Doo Dah Day Take Away Lynda@Home Video Series, I have taught a large number of children who live with a disability such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and global developmental delay, are on the autism spectrum or have learning difficulties. Some experience anxiety and others have an ADHD diagnosis. All love our classes and without exception become engaged, even if initially they may have some challenges.
One of the key Practice Principles in The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is Equity and Diversity. The Framework states, “all children have the capacity to succeed, regardless of their circumstances and abilities” and that “inclusion is the active response by early childhood professionals to understand all children’s and their families’ experiences and children’s individual capabilities”.
I have always prided myself on my ability to ensure each individual feels like they belong and feels secure in their own identity.
One of my favourite memories of working with children with a disability was when a little friend with cerebral palsy was sitting on his educator’s lap and when he saw his friends jump up to dance to Try Everything or “The Oh Oh Oh Song”, asked her to bring him his walker. He watched us carefully and as I instructed the children to spin around, he focussed super hard and manipulated his walker so he too could spin around! The smile on his face was so large and bright, such was his pride in conquering the spin, I fought back tears.
So what is the secret to inclusivity in our classes?
We have high expectations of every child
we sing complicated songs, we dance complex sequences. I celebrate the smallest improvements in balance, in confidence, in pronouncing a hard word and the children always rise to the challenges
We speak to the children as equals
I listen to them when they have things about their lives to share with me. I follow their interests so that my program (albeit a specialist program) remains emergent just like their daily program at kinder or childcare
We sing in many different languages
acknowledging many cultures in the process
We include sensory experiences
that involve a lot of touch and different sounds, be it using instruments such as shakers and drums or pulling lycra
We have many opportunities for free dance
which encourages self-expression and is not reliant on any specific ability
Our song choices are always modern and slightly quirky
appealing to children’s sense of imagination and fun. The lyrics are sometimes nonsense which removes the fear of making mistakes