Neuro Diversity and Ability Inclusion

Letters

For many in the Suncoast community, diversity and Inclusion is a movement that began in the last five years, with broader interest peaking in the summer of 2020 as is evidenced by Google search trends. For those of us working with or caring for a person with a disability, diversity and inclusion is a second language spoken fluently. Neurodiversity acknowledges the variation in how we behave, think and learn without the need for designating these variations as abnormal or problematic. Ability inclusion can be summed up in three words, Least Restrictive Environment. As part of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, Least Restrictive Environment is a civil right afforded to students with a disability to participate and be included with the general school population where safe and developmentally appropriate, the spirit of which has been an adopted ideology by the broader special needs community.

It would be imprudent to describe diversity and inclusion for people with disabilities without mentioning organizations that have worked tirelessly to establish themselves as the paragon of inclusion in our community. The Lily School for Child Development at Easterseals Southwest Florida, Selby Preschool at The Haven and The Florida Center for Early Childhood are excellent examples of empowering our children to be inclusive of all abilities, beginning in the early childhood classroom. As these children become young adults, fantastic organizations such as Goodwill or Rise and Nye’s educate, employ and empower individuals with disabilities, creating a sense of belonging, individuality and acceptance in the communities they live and work.

The great work done by these organizations and so many others cannot happen without the support of the community and our elected officials and frankly, we still have a long way to go. Private insurance and government contracts often neglect necessary components our professionals require to adequately care for and educate these remarkable individuals. Infrastructure, professional development and administrative costs are often excluded and disregarded when discussing what it takes to be a successful disability service. Occupational, physical, speech and language and behavioral therapists – along with teachers, paraprofessionals, and other certified professionals – all have requirements to continue their education and are left to pay for these services out of their own pocket, in a pediatric industry that is woefully underpaid.

Consider a local nonprofit or professional therapist/educator association for your individual, corporate or foundation gifts to support professional development and program enhancements in our community’s outstanding or aspiring inclusionary organizations.

The Suncoast Association for Behavior Analysis hosts a variety of professional development workshops and seminars. Members and/or workshop attendance are open to special needs professionals, students, and parents. Corporate and philanthropic sponsorships are always welcome. 

Chris Collins serves on the board of directors as Fundraising and Marketing Coordinator for the Suncoast Association for Behavior Analysis. Contact Collins at ChrisCollins@AbilityToInclude.org or (941) 705-1849.

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