By: Rebecca Wilson Macsovits, Author of Guion The Lion
What does inclusion mean to you?
World Down Syndrome Day 2022 is coming up on March 21, 2022, and Down Syndrome International is posing this question. Today’s unfortunate reality is that often people with Down syndrome and other special needs do not benefit from full inclusion in our society.
What can we do to reform this reality? Start talking, sharing and advocating. So, I ask again, what does inclusion mean to you? Are you included? Are you inclusive of others? World Down Syndrome Day is an ideal day to join the conversation. Share your message with Down Syndrome International here.
To me, inclusion means accepting all people no matter their ability, their religion, their political views, their gender, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity… the list goes on and on and on.
Inclusion, empathy and open mindedness became especially important to me in raising my oldest son, Guion, who has Down syndrome. Because of all the misconceptions that often surround Down syndrome, people often look at Guion and others who have Down syndrome differently. Sure, Guion looks different, has different abilities and has a different perspective on the world around us. But, aren’t we all different in our own ways?
I say this often because I believe it to be so true: Similarities may bring us together, but it’s our differences that make this world a beautiful and colorful place. Wouldn’t it be a shame if children missed out on the beauty that surrounds all of us because they become closed-minded?
When we get outside of our comfort zones, spend time with people who are “different” from ourselves, we discover what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes. We experience empathy. And from empathy comes understanding, which cultivates kindness.
Children’s books are powerful tools for social emotional learning (SEL). SEL is an important element of development as it promotes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills in children.
If you have children or teach children, you understand the lasting impression a story can have on a child. Children’s books have the power to instill social emotional skills like empathy, promote growth-mindsets, encourage kindness and nurture courage.
My experience with Down syndrome and passion for inclusion inspired me to write a children’s book that conveys a message of empathy. Using colorful illustrations and charming animal characters, the children’s story shows that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun. My vision is for this book to present a message of empathy, curiosity, and adventure before children begin making their own judgments and assumptions. My hope is that it encourages children, and parents alike, to embrace others’ differences and perspectives.