Guest Blog: Including ALL Girls

Bethiny Stark, Inclusion Specialist at GSCNC

Bethiny Stark, Inclusion Specialist at GSCNC

As Girl Scouts, when we say “every girl, everywhere” we really mean it. That’s why it’s important to ensure that every girl–including girls with disabilities–is included and welcomed into our Girl Scout community.

One way you can learn more about our inclusion initiative is to become familiar with the Including ALL Girls Patch Program for your troop or camp. This patch program will heighten awareness, understanding and acceptance of differences and disabilities. The rewards and personal satisfaction you will gain from including girls with disabilities in the Girl Scout experience is immeasurable.

Teens and adults can take advantage of multiple training opportunities about inclusion and related topics. We have our KIT trainings for adults, which include Introduction to Inclusion, Respectful Accommodations and other related topics. For our teens, we hold a special annual conference, the  Keys to Leadership Conference, an Including ALL Girls Program Aide training in May and we have adaptive equipment and resource materials available for checkout as well.

One way to be more inclusive is to use person first language; examples of how to integrate first-person language into your conversation are below.  We all want to be remembered, not for our limitations, but for our accomplishments and abilities.  The Girl Scout Law attests that we are sisters to every Girl Scout. This sisterhood to every girl is what makes us who we are.

If you have any questions, email me at bstark@gscnc.org.

Important etiquette to keep in mind when talking about and/or getting to know someone with a disability:

•   Don’t label people with disabilities as a large group—“the disabled.”  A better way to refer to such a large group is to say, “people with disabilities.”

•   Speak about the person first, then, if necessary, the person’s disability.  A girl’s disability only needs to be mentioned if she needs special consideration or action to accommodate it.

•    Emphasize a person’s abilities, not disabilities (ex.  If asked about Katie, describe her as enthusiastic and smart;  not as person with autism.)

•    Do not base your opinion of a person solely on their disability;  get to know the whole person.

•    Always let a person with a disability speak for her or himself.  If a girl is not able to speak for herself, either she or her personal assistant will let you know that.  If you want to know about her disability, ask her, not the person standing next to her. And if she doesn’t want to talk about her disability, honor her wish.

October is Disability Awareness Month and that makes it a great time to talk with your troop about being inclusive. If you have any questions, email me at bstark@gscnc.org.

Examples of Person First Language

Say: Instead of:
People with disabilities. The handicapped or the disabled.
Suzie has a cognitive disability. She’s retarded.
Kate has autism. She’s autistic.

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