Originally published on Nov. 16, 2019.
In the UK, it's the week where the John Lewis Christmas advert comes out. This is something of a pre-Christmas tradition these days, and the ads have a reputation for being heart-warming.
In this year's ad, Edgar the excitable dragon tries hard to join in with the same things that everyone else likes, but he just keeps getting himself into trouble by accidentally setting things on fire.
At one point he ties a scarf around his face, hoping to stay out of trouble this time, but to no avail. Edgar ends up unhappy and alone. Until a friend finds a role he can play (lighting the Christmas pudding), and all is well. Consider your heart warmed.
Image by John Lewis and Partners
I know I am not alone in seeing this as a metaphor for inclusion. The part where he wraps his face with the scarf felt heart-breakingly like masking to me (masking is a term for inhibiting your natural tendencies in order to fit in, quite possibly at the cost of your mental health).
And while the ending was heart-warming, what I actually thought was, "what's he going to do for friends the rest of the year then?". It reminded me of the children who are not being well-supported in school, but who everyone feels appropriately gooey about when they are given angel wings and a halo in the Nativity.
Inclusion means providing environments that are open to making the most of everyone's gifts, all year round. Appreciating what they have to offer, not only when it's convenient or heart-warming. And accepting all parts of a person, even when that is difficult for the rest of us.
So next time you see the John Lewis ad, think about making these inclusive gestures an all-year-round thing - that would be a real Christmas miracle.
If you are looking for practical help with supporting your child's communication, I'd be glad to see you on my Facebook page (Find the Key Speech and Language Therapy), or in my new group, Find the Key for Families.
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