Inclusion – The Musical challenges perceptions on inclusive work environments
When the word ‘inclusion’ is spoken in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, it is typically focused on creating environments where all children feel a sense of belonging, and have the resources and support they need to thrive in their learning environment.
What gets less attention in this space is the concept of inclusion for ECEC professionals. While many workplaces have made, or are willing to make, changes to support those with physical additional needs, support for staff who are not neurotypical can be less forthcoming.
Educators and other ECEC professionals with conditions such as autism, ADHD, Williams Syndrome and other needs can find themselves in a position where they need to strongly advocate for themselves, while also facing challenges from those they work with, or from parents and families, because of a lack of understanding about their needs.
Dr Red Ruby Scarlet of The National Quality Framework – The Musical fame, is on a mission to change this trajectory, and raise awareness about the importance of reframing the conversation on neurodivergence and employment, and of creating a space of true belonging.
Inspired by creating space
The idea for Inclusion – The Musical began in September 2022, when Dr Scarlet and her fellow performer Louise Dorrat were invited by Robyn Legge, Managing Director of Exploring Tree Early Learning to perform The National Quality Framework – The Musical at their annual conference.
Educators Tiana Dovecer and Brianna Howie, both of whom work at Exploring Tree, have a passion for the performing arts, and were invited to dance and sing in the musical and during the finale.
Inspired by the experience, Dovercer and Howie wanted to share their story, as educators living with neurodivergence who are successfully employed in ECEC.
“Their stories are powerful, heart filled ones that raise up the image of who can be an educator,” Dr Scarlet explained.
In the course of her role as a Pedagogue in Residence at Exploring Tree Early Learning, part of Dr Scarlet’s role relates to developing and presenting professional learning. Since meeting, the trio have been working together to develop professional learning through the performing arts, and Inclusion – The Musical! is the outcome of this collaboration.
With the support of ARIA-nominated children’s musician Benny Thatcher of Benny Time, original music has been orchestrated and co-composed to reflect the unique nature of the topic.
All scripting, choreography and music was co-created by Dr Scarlet, Ms Dovercer and Ms Howie.
“We think we have a top ten hit or two amongst them,” Dr Scarlet said.
“Just wait till you hear out ‘Hey Google’ song which is scaffolding educators to learn about diversities and differences – in particular Autism, William’s Syndrome and Synaesthesia – with a little help to ‘spell it for ya…’”
None of us are without the rest of our identities
When asked about the focus of the musical, its creators explained that while the focus of the musical is primarily on neurodiversity “none of us are without the rest of our identities”.
“So the message is about belonging, inclusion and who gets to be employed as an educator and what that looks like,” Dr Scarlet explained.
The musical will debut at the Invigorate Conference in Sydney on 9 September, which is fittingly focused this year on inclusive practice.
Its creators hope that the message will spread much further, and encourage those within and beyond the ECEC sector to consider how to create workplace environments which are more supportive and truly inclusive of those with additional needs.
For those who wish to consider this space more deeply, the following resources have been recommended by the creators of Inclusion – The Musical:
To purchase tickets for the Invigorate Conference, please see here.
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