We all come into this world the same way — naked, new and full of potential. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities experience exclusion and segregation as they move through life, pushed out of their communities by the attitudes of the people around them. Their potential to lead full, rich lives gets hidden under layers of diagnoses and prognoses, medical evaluations and educational assessments. Anyone with a child receiving special education services soon learns that advocating for our children to receive the education to which they are entitled under federal law is an arduous, intensive process. The fight for inclusion can be isolating and demoralizing for parents and students alike.
Several years ago, the Northwest Down Syndrome Association began to discuss the need for a dynamic and informative forum about inclusion. As an organization made up of parents of children with Down syndrome, the NWDSA has a history of stepping in to help families navigate the public school system. When the number of parents calling for help rose to the point where it became impossible to address each request on a one-to-one basis, we began to identify systemic issues that could be better addressed through a collaborative, skill-sharing venue. Parents were feeling increasingly discouraged and under-served by the programs designed to provide an appropriate, integrated education for their children. We recognized an urgent need for parents and professionals to come together to share, encourage and inspire. By being proactive, feelings of isolation and frustration could be replaced with encouragement and camaraderie in a quest for inclusive lives.
In 2006, the NWDSA presented the first annual All Born (In) conference in partnership with Portland State University. In a one-day, best-practices driven symposium we build awareness and passion for creating inclusive educational opportunities. The All Born (In) conference offers concrete skills to parents and educators committed to ending unnecessary segregation in our schools. Inclusion is a cross-disability issue, and the conference led us to form partnerships with several local agencies and organizations that serve families touched by disability. These partnerships have deepened the impact of All Born (In), and created a strong circle of parents and educators dedicated to creating an inclusive community.
As teachers and parents, as community leaders and medical professionals, when we open our minds to the strengths and gifts of people of all abilities we open ourselves to new perspectives and world views. When we broaden our techniques to best serve a variety of individuals we become better teachers, parents, leaders, and professionals. Inclusion isn’t just about making schools more welcoming for children with disabilities; it is about making the world a richer and more diverse place for everyone.
Since the first All Born (In) conference in the spring of 2006, The NWDSA and PSU have held a conference every April. Each year we reach more families and educators, and expand the offerings available to conferece attendees. Conference speakers have included Norm Kunc, Kathie Snow, David Pitonyak, Joan Medlen, Michael Bailey and numerous other local and national leader in the inclusive education movement.
In January of 2007, we took the All Born (In) movement from the confines of the world of education to the broader public with the development of the All Born (In) Photo Gallery, which debuted at OHSU’s Center for Health and Healing. The All Born (In) Photo Gallery grew out of the need to bring the broader community into the discussion of inclusion. Since its debut, the photo gallery has traveled around Oregon and Washington, including trips to each of the state capitols. It has been shown at numerous conferences, and even taken a trip to the nation’s capitol in Washington, DC. A 2009 calendar based on the images from the photo gallery has been an instrumental part of our advocacy around inclusive communities and we are in the process of expanding our gallery.
The launch of this website is the latest step in the All Born (In) movement. True to the history of movement, it is a collaborative effort between the NWDSA, PSU, Disability Rights Oregon and many individuals committed to creating inclusive communities. We see this as a clearing house of ideas and strategies celebrating and promoting inclusion. We welcome the submission of articlea and ideas, and we thank you for joining this revolutionary movement.