Updated: Mar 7, 2019
The journey that brought AFFECT to where it is now is founded by several mothers whose love for their children brought them together. They all have different experiences, perspectives and visions for their children, which is expected because each of our children are different. What we share in common is the love and passion we have for our children, to do what we believe is best for them.
We also share similar philosophies on what an inclusive mindset means to us, as well as for AFFECT. We want others to share their own thoughts, experiences and dreams for their children, knowing that they will be supported and not judged for how they advocate for their child. In turn, we ask members not to judge others in mutual respect. We believe focusing on a common foundation, which is the love for our kids, and collaborating with and supporting each other is one of the most important aspects of AFFECT.
I think it’s important to get a sense of the different experiences each of us have. If you are interested in sharing your story and perspectives, please contact us. For now, read each of the stories of our board members and what our new mission means to each of us.
SYBIL KESTLER: Passionate Advocate of Inclusion and Presuming Competence in All Children
Being a mom of one twice exceptional child and another with Down Syndrome has taught me so much. It has taught me unconditional love and enduring patience as well as inspiring me to want to change the world to be a better place for my kids, for all children. That is exactly the driving force behind my desire to reach out to others who also share the same passion for their children.
In our search for determining what the best path is for our sons, my husband and I decided that we wanted to open as many doors for our children as we could, since we don't know what their future dreams hold. What this meant to us is ensuring that our child has access to core curriculum and appropriate and meaningful challenges so that our child can graduate with a high school diploma. We believe in our son and his abilities to thrive in a gen ed setting. We also want to cultivate an environment everywhere he goes, whether that is in his schools or out in the community, that presumes competence in him too.
In our journey, we have listened to and read a lot from many experts and people well known in their fields. We strongly believe that a fully inclusive setting is best for our child based on his personality and how he learns best, and we believe that more inclusive practices is also very beneficial to all children in every classroom. True inclusion is not about focusing on a child who needs additional support due to a unique need, but it is about focusing on every child in the class so that they can support one another and learn to be accepting and appreciative of differences as well as how to collaborate one another, and in any setting.
This kind of environment and cultivation of tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of differences helps improve and support the social and emotional of all children as well as decreases incidences of bullying. True inclusion, done correctly, can also lead to improved academic performance of all children, not only the child with unique needs. If each child is matched with another where each child can help support each other and learn, as well as reinforce their lessons, they each learn valuable skills as well as their academic lessons. We believe inclusion works best for a child who enjoys being in a gen ed classroom, and whose confidence and motivations are improved when in such a setting. With the right supports and execution, we believe it can be very successful.
We have seen our child blossom in his blended classroom, and seen his speech, vocabulary, confidence, desire to learn and knowledge take off. We believe that he does best in a gen ed classroom because he enjoys being with and playing with his neurotypical peers, observes them keenly and learns from them too. We believe he learns best in a gen ed environment, and we are grateful for the team he has working with him. This is the path we choose for our son because we have seen results, and we feel in our hearts that is what is best for him.
We believe that no matter what your circumstances, that the least dangerous assumption is to presume competence in every child, regardless of how they communicate or present themselves. We also believe the least dangerous assumption is to not judge others because one doesn’t know what another has experienced. We just ask you to support one another and keep an open mind to things that are shared and discussed.
So while this is our experience and personal philosophy for our child, we also respect others whose perspectives are different because not all children are the same. We also believe that parents know their child best and love their child unconditionally, and we fully support all parents to pursue the path they believe is right for their child. We hope no matter where you are at with your journey, that you feel welcome and supported in our AFFECT community.