A New Year for Inclusion: How my son found his 'matcher'By Molly Korte
Molly McMunn Korte is a story teller and human rights advocate because of her amazing son Jacob. She is also a proud volunteer Advocacy Ambassador for Autism Speaks for 2019. Follow Jacob's journey on Instagram.
“My daughter wants to have a play date with your son.” Those words to a typical mom of a preschooler, are common. But to this mom, my heart skipped a beat, because this was everything!
As I caught my breath, I nodded my head yes and followed up with an immediate reply, “YES!” Then I called my husband and excitedly told him the news. Our 3 year old son, Jacob, who has autism, was asked to have a play date.
This gesture of acceptance is the first experience of the wonderful world of inclusion and what every parent with a child who has a disability wants most.
We enrolled Jacob into a 3-year-old preschool program this Fall. Like most moms, I had some first day jitters for my son. Would the other children play with Jacob? Would Jacob even notice the other children? Would he be overstimulated and have a meltdown? Would I get that dreaded phone call indicating that this was not going to be a good fit? So many fears and doubts ran through my head. I nervously called the school on his first morning of preschool to check in. To my relief, his preschool director informed me that Jacob was having a great first day!
After more and more “great days,” I let my guard down about Jacob’s behavior in class. But the ultimate affirmation came in the form of a message from another mom. The message read that her daughter came home from class and told her mom all about her friend Jacob. The happy mom asked if our kids could have a (wait for it)...PLAY DATE. My heart swelled with excitement! I read it, and then read it again. Jacob had a little friend who wanted to play after school. This is our son, whose neurologist cautioned us he might never make social connections as he developed. To know he has a friend seeking him out in class made my heart swell with joy.Find Your Matcher
Right before Halloween this little girl’s mom wrote me to share that while they were out shopping, her daughter insisted that her mother buy a pumpkin shirt like her friend Jacob had. Her exact words were, “ I really, really need one so I can match with Jacob.” Her mom and I coordinated so the kids dress like twins on the same day. On the prearranged morning, her mom wrote and said that she “refused leggings and a skirt and picked out jeans instead because “Jacob won’t be wearing a skirt and then ‘we won’t be matchers, Mom.’”
Later in the day, Jacob’s wonderful aide, captured a photo of our happy kids and texted it to me. Jacob and her are indeed “matchers.” Jacob is a “matcher” with his peers. You see, when she hangs out with my son, she only sees him as her buddy Jacob. She likes him for who he is. No one had to tell her about inclusion, it’s just part of who she is. That’s natural but it helps when open-minded parents encourage their children to get to know all kids in their class, including children with special needs.
When we teach our children to be inclusive, we all win. It begins at the preschool age. Encourage your child to find another child different than themselves to connect with. In that process, each child will naturally learn so much more about themselves. Your child has a gift that pairs well with another child’s gift, and together their gifts shining which makes this a better world. Yes, inclusion is THAT important! Their bond is making an impact on the fabric and direction of humanity and the future! Encourage your child to go forward, let their light shine, and let them naturally find their “matcher” too! Friendship, after all, is something we can ALL be thankful for.