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What is Inclusion?

by Jack Pearpoint & Marsha Forest

People genuinely ask us, "What is Inclusion - really?"

We have found a simple way to answer this question for groups and workshops. We explain that we believe everyone already knows the answer. In their hearts and from their life experience, people really do understand the difference between Inclusion and Exclusion. They just need to be reminded of what they already know. Then we say:

"Think of a time when you felt really outside, excluded. What words come to mind?"

Generally words like these flow from people's hearts: "awful, lonely, scared, sad, mad, unhappy, miserable, depressed, etc."

"Now think of a time you felt really welcomed, really included . How did you feel then?"

Answers are usually words like: "happy, terrific, loved, great, wonderful, important, thrilled, warm, healthy, etc."

The responses are universal. The answers are the same for children of all ages, people of all lands, tall & short, old & young, male & female. When people are included, they feel welcome; they feel good; they feel healthy.

When people are excluded, they feel 'bad'.

Inclusion is the precondition for learning, happiness - for healthy living.

Exclusion is the precondition for misery, loneliness and trouble.

We know teenagers often choose to die - rather than be alone. We know kids join gangs rather than be seen as "outside" the mainstream. Belonging is NOT incidental - it is primary to our existence. Thus, for us, Exclusion kills - physically and/or spiritually. "Killing the pain" of Exclusion is a learned skill. Adults often choose a "living death" by numbing the pain with alcohol, drugs, obsessions - to "override" the anguish of Exclusion.

Inclusion is the foundation of the house. It is not a guarantee, but rather a precondition for the growth and development of full and healthy human beings.

That is how we "define" Inclusion . Dictionaries also help. "Included" - as defined in the Random House College Dictionary is an adjective meaning "contained in; embraced".

In Roget's Thesaurus (4th Edition) - inclusive of - means "with".

Inclusion is a wonderful word. It is about embracing humanity and figuring out how we are going to live WITH one another in the challenging years to come.  


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Jack Pearpoint, Lynda Kahn & Cathy Hollands, Inclusion Press International & The Marsha Forest Centre
47 Indian Trail, Toronto, ON M6R 1Z8 Canada
Phone: (416) 658-5363    Fax: (416) 658-5067    E-mail: