The Power of Inclusion for the I/DD Community

A Perspective from Our Summer Intern, Rina Nguyen

Summer Intern, Rina Nguyen

I remember a girl named Jennifer in my elementary school that wasn’t like the rest of my peers. For the most part, she would be in the classroom like the rest of us, but was absent for part of the day with a faculty member. Occasionally, my teacher would get frustrated with her and I would feel defensive of her, but not do anything due to fear of getting in trouble. 

Most of my classmates attended the same middle school which included Jennifer. Middle school was vastly larger than elementary school, so I didn’t see her around as much. However, I did occasionally spot her with a group of other students in special education. 

It wasn’t until I was with LSA, did I reflect on Jennifer and try to recall the last interaction I had with her or any developmentally disabled individual within the last seven years. I came to the conclusion that middle school was the last time any neurodivergent peers were in my classes, as I didn’t know any in high school or college. 

This all changed when I began working at LSA as the Marketing and Outreach Intern. I’m proud of my work for LSA and the I/DD community, as it is fulfilling to know it helps people. However, these feelings of joy that I felt from merely looking at photos, reading, and watching videos of the residents didn’t compare to visiting them at their LSA homes. 

The Cypress house was first on my list to visit. I arrived in the morning, so understandably, not everyone was active. However, they were all welcoming and introduced themselves to me, then resumed whatever they were doing. The most memorable part of this home was their rooms and how decked out they all were. Robbie and Ronnie’s room were covered in music artists and sports memorabilia and Kevin’s room had Pokemon and horses. There’s no doubt in my mind that this house was a home. 

The Cambrian home was anything but quiet. Upon my arrival, Vanessa was in her virtual day program, Dani was listening to Katy Perry, Amber was watching a show, and Christie was striking up a conversation with me. I was still quite shy visiting the homes, but Amber squashed those thoughts of mine as she welcomed me in with a giant smile and hug. We didn’t need to speak to communicate the excitement we had to meet one another.

The second I walked into the Humbolt home, I was welcomed with a barrage of chatter and next thing I knew, I was engaged in three conversations at once. Nyssa inquired about my family while telling me about hers, Caron recounted her healthy meals, and Ya-Chi asked me to play ball with her. Nyssa gave me a tour of the backyard and I even got to meet her goldfish, Nemo, who she lovingly referred to as her son. Out of all the homes, I know I can stay at this one all day without even knowing it. 

If it wasn’t for my time at LSA, I probably would not have spared a thought about Jennifer. I’m sure there are people like me who grew up around neurodivergent individuals and didn’t even realize that they don’t see them around anymore. Inclusion isn’t a feat that can occur overnight, but being aware of I/DD individuals is a start that everyone can undertake.

Learn how to get involved with LSA & make a difference in the I/DD community, like our intern, Rina!