Promoting Inclusion in All Situations

By Mary Funk, Deputy Executive Director of The Arc of Prince George’s County.

Save the ChildrenWhat do chapters of The Arc do? A better question would be – what don’t they do? Supporting individuals with I/DD and their families can mean a number of things, from providing services to hosting educational program. Chapters look at the overall needs of the families they serve and are constantly working to find new ways to address needs in their communities. Realizing that many child care facilities are not required to specifically account for infants, toddlers or children with disabilities or those with access and functional needs in their disaster preparedness plans our chapter decided to take action.

Five years ago, The Arc Prince George’s County received a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education to create an inclusive childcare center. We forged a partnership with the local YMCA that was already providing childcare for typical infants andchildren 6 weeks – five years.  The Y offers the facility and childcare license, and our chapter provides the nurse and years of experience working with children with disabilities.

The collaboration has enabled children with developmental delays, physical disabilities, and medical diagnoses to play and learn alongside their typical peers, regardless of the nursing needs that may be required. Children are not separated because of their disabilities by walls or classrooms in any way. They receive on-site physical, occupational, and speech/language therapies and any needed specialized care. Children without disabilities play alongside children with disabilities, never concerned with any “differences”. They do not see a child with a disability….they see only a friend.

We are so pleased to share that Save the Children’s fifth annual “National Report Card on Protecting Children During Disasters” highlights the success of one of our employees, Judy Tribby, who works at the YMCA inclusive child care center, in Bowie, MD.  Judy has been instrumental in ensuring that emergency plans in place at the center take into account every need of the children with disabilities.  Her work paid off in August 2011, during the East Coast earthquake.

To learn more about Judy’s work and to read the full report, visit www.savethechildren.org/disaster-report.