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  • Jess Amato, CTRS/L

I Deserve To Be Here & So Do You

My life's passion and purpose has always been to guide the world in social inclusion. It is both a process and an outcome where we improve the terms which individuals and groups take part in society; doing our part to improve the ability, opportunity, and dignity of all regardless of identity. As a recreational therapist my tool is play. When we engage in an activity for enjoyment and step outside our comfort zone we connect with ourselves and learn to navigate our internal world and the social world we live in. Through positive shared experiences, we connect with one another and build mutual awareness, acceptance, trust, and respect.


The song, I AM, is one of my favorites. When I listened to it this morning it reminded me of the simplicity and barriers to inclusion. Drew McManus, lead singer and songwriter of Satsang, shares his experiences with vulnerability and perseverance towards self-love. A challenge we all experience because of the barriers created from the labels, assumptions, and inequity throughout society.


I no longer need validation 'Cause my story is long and I'm patient I know that I have lessons to learn Keep my eyes open, each step I earn, yeah

Driven by social norms and expectations we all seek a level of validation. The issue is when we rely on external validation to determine our value and worth, to guide us in how we should feel. We will all experience our own path, with ups and downs, differences and similarities. Unless we push ourselves to look beyond what other people think and say, we are telling our children and anyone who experiences life "differently" that their path is wrong.

No need for me to feel alone 'Cause I got a place that I call home Every single road traveled, every single new place I come back home, they accept me with grace, yeah

All too often people feel alone, as if we are the only ones to experience a situation. While no one can walk in our shoes for us, they can walk alongside us and remind us we are not alone and we have a safe place to feel vulnerable and navigate the difficult realities faced. This can be true for a parent raising a child with a disability, an individual suffering the loss of a family member, or a child who feels different from their peers. As social creatures we thrive on feeling a sense of connection and belonging.


There is beauty in diversity. When we encourage others to be who they are, we allow ourselves to lead with acceptance and appreciation for our differences. This promotes values which support building a more connected community, where everyone feels they belong. In my "ideal" world every person on this planet would feel comfortable singing at the top of a mountain:

I deserve to be here And so do you
Said, I deserve to be here

Everyday we have the opportunity to support others in their life experiences, embracing our uniqueness. If we teach our children to do the same we are setting them up for success to be exactly as they are and feel accepted and appreciated for it, accepting and appreciating those they cross paths with.

Well, I said, "I will starve my ego, and I will remain strong I will make mistakes, and I will often be wrong" Well, I'm perfectly imperfect, and I'm only here to learn I said, "I'm perfectly imperfect, and I'm only here to learn
The pressure always comes from the outside Try not to let it in where I reside Well, this is my heart, my home My choice, my love, my live, my path, my voice

Let's work together to allow ourselves and others to put egos aside, embrace our differences and the learning mistakes bring. Together we can turn the pressure from the outside into cultivated acceptance, building an inclusive society. I use play to support and advocate for children with and without disabilities. What role do you play in guiding our world to be more inclusive, where every child and adult can truly know, "I deserve to be here and so do you"?

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