Get to know your AOs: Sarah Vassallo

Authorised Officer, Sarah Vassallo, talks to us about the common misconceptions around creating inclusive environments as well as giving some examples of how services go above and beyond in creating nurturing environments for all children.

What is your position and where are you based?

I’m a Senior Field Officer in the Compliance Team and I’m based in Kiama but work out of Wollongong and Parramatta.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working with such an inclusive and supportive team. Also being able to work with services and make relationships within the sector and generate positive experiences for the educators is a rewarding part of my job.

Have you come across any services that have gone above and beyond in creating inclusive, nurturing environments for all children, and especially children with disability and/or developmental delay?

A service I recently visited has used the inclusive term in a really genuine not tokenistic way. They use capability as opposed to disability and focus on what the children CAN do. They also see different cultures and religions as a tool to help build their inclusive environment. The service values the family input and uses this to guide their experiences.

By normalising what is different this service is promoting inclusivity without drawing attention to it. I found that it really made a difference to the children as it was teaching them that differences aren’t negative, they are to be embraced. They achieved this through songs, books, chatting with the children and planned experiences based on the children’s input. Such a wonderful thing to see as an officer!

What are some common misconceptions about inclusion and creating inclusive learning environments that you’ve encountered?

I have found that the most common misconception is that by putting in ramps or having inclusion support is creating an inclusive environment. But being inclusive is not just about disabilities, it’s about creating a welcoming and loving environment for EVERY child regardless of ability, culture, nationality or religion.

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