A little girl is making art. It's a project that she is working on, along with a lot of other kids, in a school where I am going to be giving a lecture, in the auditorium, at the end of the school day. We arrived early, as Joe and I are in the habit of doing, and Joe stayed in the auditorium to set up while I went on a tour with the Vice Principle.
We come upon this group of kids engaged in the making of art. I roll into the room in order to watch. I'm told, proudly, by the Vice Principle that it's an opportunity for me to see 'inclusion in action.' And, it's true. There are kids with both physical and intellectual disabilities working right along side peers without disabilities.
Near me is a little girl, maybe six, maybe seven, with Down Syndrome, working on the project. She is laser focused on her work, it's wonderful to watch kids who are totally absorbed in what they are doing. The teacher begins to let the kids know that they'll be wrapping up in a few minutes. The little girl with Down Syndrome has a Education Assistant beside her now. This Assistant has been in the room checking in with other kids who have disabilities and now has sat down beside the little girl who is working on her project.
The aide, in a helpful voice, says, "I think you should colour in these spaces," and points to a few spots on the paper. The little girl looked at her and then continued on. The Assistant was distracted for a few minutes by a short conversation with the teacher. When she turned back and looked at the girl's work, she said, conversationally, "You didn't colour these spaces like I suggested."
The little girl continued her work but obviously wasn't going to take the Assistant's advice. When prompted again, the child turned to the Assistant and said, "It's my art."
The Assistant was brought up short but responded wonderfully, "You're right, it is your art, you need to do it exactly like you want to do it."
The child claimed her right to make art the way she wanted to make art. In doing this, the child signalled that she has the power to make her own decisions, to say 'no' to authority and to assert her will. She did all this calmly and strongly.
This little girl is on the path to becoming a strong woman.
Notice that though she has Down Syndrome, that descriptor isn't in the sentence above. You know why - because every little girl needs to be on same path.