Another Gift of Inclusion: Yaya and Her Best Friend

I don’t when typical things are supposed to happen in the lives of typical children; however, when they happen for us, it is always a great time to celebrate and smile. Today, I am celebrating Yaya’s first best friend. It all started like this…

She came back from school a couple of weeks ago with a big surprise, “I have a best friend,” she announced. “That’s awesome, Yaya,” I said. “How do you know you are best friends?” “Well, she is beautiful like me, she has beautiful hair like me, and she makes me laugh, a lot,” she added.

“Tell me more about her. Is she taller than you?”

“She is my same height, mom.”

“What color is her hair and what color are her eyes?”

“Her hair is black and her eyes are green.”

“What do you two talk about?”

“Oh, she has the best jokes. Today she told me one about a butt.”

“What? About a butt?”

“Oh yeah. She said, ‘Do you know my butt’s name?’ I said, no. And she said, ‘I call it poop!’”

And she cracked up! And she kept laughing and talking about her friend for what felt like forever.

I am so fortunate that my daughter has an amazing teacher who loves her so much that she is always willing to get my calls or text messages – any day, anytime. So I sent her a text telling her about what Yaya had reported. She replied immediately. “That’s N,” she said. “Yes, they are having so much fun together and they go together everywhere. They really are best friends. I love seeing them together all the time.”

It took years for Yaya to find a bestie! And now all she can talk is about her and the things they do together, and the games they play at recess, and even about how mad she gets when other kids want to play with her best friend.

Suddenly, her world is opening and she has started interacting more and more with other girls and boys. She is starting to experience the magic of real inclusion. She is not just integrated into a typical classroom, now she is fully included and moves along with everyone else, at her own pace and with her individual supports, but alongside typical kids.

Yaya’s best friend story is one I will treasure forever because it is one of those life-changing experiences that make you realize your child is getting there. She is talking, sharing, expressing her feelings and creating real connections in the best place ever; in the least restrictive environment. She’s existing, thriving, in the typical world: the real world with all its ups and downs. I couldn’t be more proud or more excited for the next milestone we meet, no matter how “typical” it seems.

About the Author

Named as Best Latino Advocate 2015 Through the Use of Technology and Social Media, Eliana creates awareness about the possibilities of people with disabilities through her social media channels and bilingual posts. This past October, her son, Emir, was a guest of honor to the White House, along with other 10 geniuses in technology. For the first time a person with intellectual disabilities was included to represent his community. Her daughter Ayelen is growing up while representing diversity in her role as a model for several brands in the U.S.

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