San Diego County CA— Kids Included Together (KIT) commemorated the start of Disability Awareness Month this October by announcing a new national partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to open more opportunities for children with disabilities and other complex needs.
Under the partnership, KIT (www.KIT.org), the leading authority in disability inclusion training and behavior support, is offering coaching and support to staff members at 4,300 local Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide.
Torrie Dunlap, CEO of Kids Included Together, points out that the organization’s goal is to ensure that children with varying abilities have a chance to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. That objective dovetails with BGCA’s mission to create safe, positive and inclusive environments for all children.
“Children with disabilities are among the world’s most stigmatized and excluded group,” Dunlap points out. “Every year, kids with disabilities ranging from autism to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other complex needs, as well as those with physical disabilities, continue to be excluded from schools and their communities because of a lack of understanding and unfounded fears.”
She adds, “KIT encourages creativity and accommodations in schools, childcare programs and after-school activities that allow all children equal access and focus on each one’s unique needs. Our aim is to teach organizations how they can include these children with differing abilities in general activities instead of marginalizing or segregating them.”
Research continues to prove that inclusion benefits all children, not just those with disabilities.
Under the new partnership, KIT will be teaching Boys & Girls Clubs staff members about disabilities and how to make accommodations so children with complex requirements or behavioral considerations can be included in everyday activities alongside their peers. As part of the partnership, KIT will host an exclusive webinar series during the month of October for the Clubs in addition to its general curriculum, which includes state-of-the-art in-person and online training and call-in coaching.
Tailored specifically to BGCA, the webinars include such topics as how to provide a safe, positive environment and access to fun activities; a sense of belonging; supportive relationships, and meaningful opportunities and expectations. The webinars also stress the importance of formal and informal recognition of the children’s strengths and accomplishments.
KIT’s learning tools emphasize that inclusion is an attitude that respects and appreciates children with all abilities. According to Dunlap, “Inclusion is about belonging, participating and reaching one’s potential in a diverse society.”
Founded in 1997, Kids Included Together serves youth development organizations in 41 states and 11 countries.
KIT’s CEO explains, “Our organization teaches others how to make stronger, richer communities that reflect the diversity of our world. Instead of having these children conform to our world, we need to listen to the messages they have to give to us.”
As one mother of a child who uses a wheelchair believes, “Having someone with a disability around you helps you see that character should be the defining factor rather than whether or not someone can walk.”