The Art of Saying "Hi"

By Colleen Brown

What does real inclusion look like? Colleen Brown shares a story about how it can be as simple as saying "Hi".

Renee says ‘Hi’.

A lesson I learnt very early on in bringing up our son Travers was to be patient and persistent. I learned that I had to keep doing all the exercises, the reading, the language development even though it seemed as though nothing was going in … because nothing seemed to be coming out. Life seemed to be one constant plateau.

But of course Trav did grow, walk, talk, laugh, tell stories, and develop his own likes and dislikes. He was always his own person. We just had to see that person. And he was always included as part of his community here in Hillpark. 

"I know that if a disabled child wanted to take art in that class right now, they will be welcomed with open arms."

And I was reminded of why we did all of that, so many years ago, just the other day. 

I was dropping our young granddaughter Kate off to after school art classes.  Kate adores her art. Her teacher is superb. When I collected Kate I told the teacher, who of course was busy tidying up and saying farewell to her little artists, just how much Kate loved her art. We got talking. The teacher looked at me long and hard …’did you teach me?’ she asked. We went through the usual questions. 

No. We discovered I hadn’t taught her. She had been to school with Trav. ‘Oh Travers … I was at school with him at intermediate and secondary. How is he?’ 

There it was that pure nugget of how inclusion works. At that moment I knew. All those hours of worry, of meetings, of arguing our case, of battling to get resources, we were right. Inclusion works. 

What is the test for me? 

I know that if a disabled child wanted to take art in that class right now, they will be welcomed with open arms. The reason is … that we, Trav’s parents and family years ago made a decision that our son lived in a community. That he was part of that community, that just by being there doing everyday things like his peers and his siblings he would educate others to understand that disability is not to be feared. That he would educate the future parents, and employers and …art teachers to be inclusive.

And the parting comment….

‘Oh tell Trav that Renee says ‘hi.’

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