I recently watched a video about a man in Yeovil (Chris Samson, Man About Town) who does specialised haircuts for children with sensory processing disorders. He describes how the process of getting a haircut is actually incredibly overwhelming, and how he does all he can to break the process down and make it easier for a child to cope. His take on inclusion is just one simple sentence, “I will do what needs doing”.
Firstly, it’s a fantastically heart-warming watch that restores a little faith in humanity. You can see how Chris does a phenomenal job at making something is tricky as getting a haircut as easy as possible, which absolutely made my day!
Secondly, and the best thing about this story, is that he doesn’t make a sing-and-dance of it. The barber shop isn’t specially equipped with sensory toys, it doesn’t have visual timetables, it doesn’t have any sort of Alternative and Augmentative Communication. It just has a man doing his very best for his clients.
This, in my mind, is what Inclusion should be.
I am a firm believer in the environment being adapted for a child in need, don’t get me wrong. But this video showed me that inclusion isn’t just about a child ticking our boxes, and people implementing strategies that some guideline somewhere says we should do. It’s about an individual changing their behaviour to match the individuality of the child. Not getting bogged down in the particular nature of a condition and what additional extras someone says are required. It is as simple as being slightly more patient whilst trying to maintain a form of ‘normality’.
This really struck a chord with me. I’ve always seen inclusion as all the fancy bells-and-whistles that come with an EHCP list of recommendations, for example, but this man has shown me that actually, inclusion is simply making yourself a little more flexible and showing respect. You don’t need to be a specialist to make that happen, you just need to be understanding and know that not everyone is going to abide by the way things are normally done. You also shouldn’t have to expect somebody to come with a manual on how to treat them, just use a bit of common sense and let go of how you might normally do things. Sometimes, it is just as simple as letting someone stand by the window instead of sit down.
So, #ADisabilityPositive does come out of this. It gives the perfect example of how somebody has said “I want you here and I want to help, so let me do my best to suit you”. This, in my mind, is the best way to be inclusive for those with additional needs.