Kids Included Together (KIT) focuses on including children with disabilities in existing after school recreational and childcare programs so that children with special needs can reap the many benefits of socialization, friendship building and participation that typically developing children have always enjoyed. By working side-by-side with providers of after-school care, KIT acts as a change agent to expand their organizational culture and empower these caring programs to include children with special needs not just today but for years to come. KIT relies on a proven model for inclusion based on best-practices research, and then provides the tools and support to successfully implement that best-practices model in each organization’s unique setting.
KIT’s mission is to support recreational and youth programs that include children with and without disabilities so that inclusion becomes a sustainable aspect of the organizations culture. KIT’s goal is to enrich the lives of all who participate and to increase understanding and acceptance of disabilities as a natural part of life.
KIT is the only organization of its kind in the state of California and quite possibly the nation. Through partnerships, KIT brings expertise and experience to struggling community-based nonprofit youth organizations and instills in them best practices and proven methods for inclusion that allow their programs to become accessible to all children, regardless of their abilities. With hands-on training, staff support, child-specific or site-specific consultations, and incentive awards to increase staff ratios, KIT increases an organizations’ capacity to include children with a wide variety of disabilities in programs where they play side-by-side with typically developing children of their own age.
Since its inception in 1997, KIT has facilitated the inclusion of more than 1,830 children with disabilities who have participated with more than 15,000 typically developing children in recreational programs throughout San Diego County. This has been accomplished through a small but fast-growing network of 24 partner organizations representing 43 site locations throughout San Diego County. KIT has facilitated the inclusion of more than 1,830 children with disabilities who have participated with more than 15,000 typically developing children in recreational programs throughout San Diego County.
Considering that there are more than 90,000 children with disabilities or special needs in San Diego County alone, KIT considers this an exciting start, but still sees much work to be done. KIT is committed to finding community partners in every neighborhood in San Diego County and beyond so that parents of children with disabilities across the nation can access safe, enriching after school youth facilities close to their homes.
The majority of individuals with disabilities in the U.S. encounter social, psychological, economic, and political barriers. Isolation and loneliness characterize their lives. There has been too little effort to include them in the day-to-day life and work of communities. It is not because people are uncaring; it is because it is easier NOT to include them. Kids Included Together has found a way to effect change.