By Steven Kapp
Steven Kapp is a PhD student in educational psychology and a graduate student in the Kasari lab at UCLA. A self-advocate, Kapp researches autism; as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s Science Committee Chair, he influenced the revision of the autism diagnosis in the DSM-5. A member of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Kapp engages in capacity-building and systems change for fellow Californians with developmental disabilities.
Interacting with people of different backgrounds and abilities deepens our perspective, furthers our connections in the social fabric, and enriches society.
Diversity is also a fact of life. In the U.S., children are fast approaching a “minority majority”.
Furthermore, inclusion is a human right protected by various laws.
- The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 decreed that “separate but equal is inherently unequal”.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates a “free and public education” in the “least restrictive environment,” regulated by the Department of Education in support of inclusion.
- Over 150 countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which asserts people with disabilities’ right to “full inclusion and participation in the community”.
Thus, schools can and should help prepare children for a life of engaging with a variety of people.
Yet countless evidence shows that mere exposure to peers of different groups does not maximize the benefits of inclusion.
The quality of contact is what counts most.
The most natural way for most children now to have positive experiences with diverse peers is through play at recess and breaktime at school.
- Children spend most of their time with peers in school.
- Classrooms do not necessarily allow children enough opportunity to engage with peers.
- Research has shown that play is “the work of the child” – that children learn and grow through play.
Unfortunately, many schools are limiting or taking away recess.
Even when recess is offered, many kids do not know how to play well.
Many children are rejected and neglected.
Let’s break this cycle by ensuring that schools have breaks, with the support available for children to engage positively with peers!
Check out this news video on how the IDEAL School in New York City is working to advance neurodiversity and social justice.