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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2018

KIT brings awareness, support to military members

By Airman 1st Class Ariel Owings Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

The 87th Force Support Squadron hosted an Inclusive by Design conference from the Kids Included Together Organization here, Oct. 26, 2018.

The conference was created by KIT to bring awareness and support to community members with special needs and change the perception of the label.

KIT is a non-profit organization that teaches inclusive practices to people who work with children. With a contract through the Defense Department, the organization provides inclusion training and support to child and youth programs on every military installation for all five services since 2010.

Peg Kinfell, Military Family Support director, said they wanted to focus this conference on people with disabilities and discuss ways to support their inclusion in society. They want every Joint Base MDL community member to feel valued for what they bring to the table.

“When we set up these events we create a kind of container for the conversations,” said Torrie Dunlap, KIT chief executive officer. “People have the opportunity to talk about it and connect around it which is only possible when you bring people together in a community like this.”

The all-day, interactive conference included a keynote presentation of the top five trends in disability inclusion. Audience members discussed problems and solutions concerning the obstacles they have faced.

The audience gathered into groups with a special needs parent as a spokesperson. The groups listened to the stories and pinpointed what they believed were problems with how society may unintentionally segregate these children. Then they worked together to find a possible solution.

“People were listening so intently with [each other],” said Dunlap. “I don’t think that families are listened to all the time. I think that creating the space for that and making it safe for people to [talk], helped families feel more comfortable and willing to open up.”

Laura Serrano, Exceptional Family Member Program family support coordinator, said they were impressed by the diversity of attendees. There were off-base agencies, school employees and others who work with people with disabilities.

“It’s really important to understand how each person uses each term,” said Dwana Moore, EFMP family support coordinator. “It’s important to [talk] with the families to see what verbiage they use so we can use those and make them feel more comfortable.”

KIT wants to emphasize the importance of viewing each person as an individual rather than classifying people with a broad label.

“People are human,” said Dunlap. “We want to open the door for them to a society that is accepting and where they don’t have to feel so guarded and misunderstood.”