Planning an Inclusion Project Event

With planning and bringing together a team of people from different perspectives, hosting an Inclusion Project event at your school or in your community will be a very rewarding experience! We hope this guide will assist you and your team to plan an Inclusion Project event.

An Inclusion Project event can be a combination of activities scattered throughout the school building for a full day or part of a day or spread out every week or month.

Planning may need to begin as early as six to eight months prior to the event date or timeframe.

The youth leaders who developed the Inclusion Project idea felt that it was important to hold the event(s) during the month of October in celebration of Disability History & Awareness Month (DHAM) as designated by former Governor Timothy Kaine in 2009.

What makes a successful Inclusion Project event?

  • Goals and a vision of the message and intent of the Inclusion Project.
  • Guidance and advisement from a group of stakeholders who share the Inclusion Project vision and/or who are in positions to make things happen in the building.
  • Continuity in the Inclusion Project activities that keep students focused and engaged on the goals and vision.

Step One: Convening a Planning Committee

To make decisions when preparing to host an Inclusion Project event, it is important to first convene an event Planning Committee that is comprised of diverse members. It will be different if the event is at a school or a community organization. If the event is at a school, the planning committee members of your local school division such as building administrators, educators, staff, youth with and without disabilities, and parents and community disability organization partners if appropriate. It is important that this group be inclusive of diverse individuals who are interested in inclusion/disability awareness and anti-bullying.

There are several ways to form your planning committee -- ask specific individuals, recruit volunteers, or have an application process. If the event will be held during DHAM, the committee should be formed no later than eight to nine months prior to October and should plan to meet monthly at a minimum.

Pre-work for the facilitator to do or ensure is done prior to the first Inclusion Project Planning Committee meeting includes, but is not limited to:

  • Who should serve on the Inclusion Project Planning Committee?
  • Is there a ‘champion’ who will make sure the Inclusion Project event happens?
  • Do all potential members of the Inclusion Project Planning Committee have the information they need to plan the event?
  • What process will be used to ensure everyone has input into decisions regarding the Inclusion Project?
  • Who will facilitate and record different parts of the planning meetings?
  • Who will keep track of the tasks in order to have a successful event?
  • When will the Inclusion Project Planning Committee meet to ensure full participation by all members?
  • Does the Inclusion Project Planning Committee meeting location meet requirements for the members of the committee, (i.e., disability accommodations, wall space for chart paper, and screen for projection)?

Communication among all members of the Inclusion Project Planning Committee needs to be respectful of disabilities and positive. Below is information on using Person-First Language, some suggestions on how to effectively manage relationships when youth are represented on a committee, and the use of ground rules that can be helpful in keeping a meeting on track.

Person-First Language

Language and labels can devalue a person as less than, not like us, which can lead to stereotyping, discrimination and bullying. Using person-first language simply puts the person before the disability. For example, say:

  • People with disabilities; not the handicapped or disabled
  • John has Down Syndrome; not he has Downs or he is retarded
  • Sarah uses a wheelchair; not Sarah’s wheelchair bound or confined to a wheelchair
  • He has a brain injury; not he is brain damaged

Person-first language is not about being politically correct. It is about respect and treating people the way we want to be treated. More information on using person-first language and helpful handouts can be found at

Do’s and Don’ts of Youth Representation on Committees

  • DO

  • Talk to us like adults
  • Ask us our opinion – youth know best what youth want and need
  • Listen to and respect our ideas
  • Treat us as equals
  • Be patient and help us learn from our mistakes
  • Put us in groups with adults so we learn to work together (teamwork)
  • Let us take a lead on projects – support, encourage and guide us
  • Offer your insights and suggestions
  • Be honest with your opinion – it is okay to disagree
  • Give us the tools we need to do it for ourselves and be successful
  • Don’t

  • Treat us like children
  • Assume we cannot have input or help make decisions because of our age
  • Think we cannot contribute because of our lack of experience
  • Determine our worth by our appearance or cognitive ability
  • Cover up for us when we mess up
  • Separate us into adult vs. teen groups
  • Take over projects and not let us have meaningful, active participation
  • Tell us it cannot be done and tell us what our goals are
  • Try to protect us
  • Do it for us
Adapted from the National Organizations for Youth Safety “Teen Distraction Driving Prevention: Community Engagement Guide.”

Ground Rules

Many meeting facilitators find it helpful to establish ground rules to govern meeting behavior. Typically, the meeting attendees develop the list at the first meeting. In order to get the buy-in from the Planning Committee members, you may want to ask them to develop a list of ground rules. Examples of ground rules include:

  • No jargon
  • Have fun
  • Start and end of time
  • Do unto others…
  • Listen with your ears
  • One person speaking at a time
  • Ask (for what you need, for help to pursue questions)
  • Everyone contributes
  • Use Person-First language
  • Cell phones off or on vibrate
  • Limit sidebar conversations

Take advantage of meeting facilitation resources that can be found all over the internet

Step Two: Setting a Goal and Vision for the Inclusion Project

During the initial planning meeting, the Inclusion Project Planning Committee should set a general goal and vision for the Inclusion Project. This will ensure that all team members have a common understanding for the event that can be communicated to the entire school body and/or community.

One way to develop a vision statement is to ask the Inclusion Project Planning Committee:

  • What do you believe is the purpose of the Inclusion Project?
  • What is the message students, teachers, and people in the building (and/or community) will walk away with at the end of the day?

Sample Vision Statement:

"Students will gain a greater understanding of what it means to belong to a school that welcomes all people."

Step Three: Establishing an Inclusion Project Agenda

The Inclusion Project Planning Committee will need to decide if the event(s) will be held during a day (all day, part of a day), a week or a month (or even monthly). Pitfalls to avoid include, but are not limited to (1) checking the calendar to prevent scheduling an Inclusion Project event(s) to coincide with any religious observance that may exclude some members of your school or community, and (2) reviewing the school’s master calendar to prevent scheduling conflicts with school holidays and sporting events. Once decisions are made on the date(s) and how long the event(s) will run, the Inclusion Project Planning Committee should draft an agenda.

The committee should take the following into consideration:

  • Arrival of students in parking lot and walking into the school -- what do they see?
  • Going to class -- what is in the hallways?
  • Classrooms -- where are the activities taking place?
  • Lunch -- what are the students talking about?
  • End of the day -- how are students reflecting about the activities of the day?

Step Four: Developing a Work plan

Once an agenda has been drafted, the Inclusion Project Planning Committee may find it helpful to identify a list of tasks to be completed by whom and when. It is important to remember that the whole school/community organization should participate in the Inclusion Project. This is not a project or event just by or for the special education department or classrooms. This may require a concerted effort preparing general education teachers and all school staff in disability basics.

This is an example of a work plan. The report from the Inclusion Project pilots in Northumberland and Radford may provide additional ideas:

Tasks What Needs to be Done Who / When
Buy in from Administration Schedule a meeting with Supt Davis and Research Director to discuss desire to host an Inclusion Project event(s) Bonnie April 5, 2014
Staff meeting Hold staff meeting at Johnson Middle School to discuss Inclusion Project plans Jackie May 1, 2014
Teacher Preparation Training and technical assistance for general education teachers and all staff at Johnson Middle School on disabilities 101 Tim April – October 2014
Advertise event With support from at least 2 teachers/staff at Johnson Middle School, finalize the Inclusion Project activities and list items needed to borrow or purchase Committee July 31, 2014
Advertise event Disseminate flyers, public service announcements, and social media blasts for Inclusion Project John August – September 2014

A sample agenda can be downloaded here. Additional examples are highlighted in the Inclusion Project pilot report and on the project’s webpage ( under the Disability Awareness tab.