Brady Murray
May 24, 2024

Radical Inclusion: Creating a Better World for Everyone

In this week’s episode of Conquering Your Clownfish, I had the opportunity to interview Stephanie Hanrahan. Stephanie is a writer, TEDx speaker, activist, and autism mom from Texas. After bravely deciding to make her private journal public, chronicling her journey as a special needs parent, Stephanie achieved viral success with her website and social media channels. She has been featured on major media outlets like The Today Show, CNN, Yahoo News, and Daily Mail for her raw, honest, and inspiring storytelling.  

In this powerful episode, Stephanie and I dive deep into the topic of radical inclusion for individuals with autism and other special abilities. Stephanie shares vulnerable insights from her own journey parenting two children on the autism spectrum. She emphasizes that awareness and even acceptance of autism is not enough - what we really need is radical inclusion. When we open our hearts and minds to include and embrace those who are truly differently abled, Stephanie believes we create a better, more connected world for everyone. Her message is a resonant call to action for anyone who wants to be part of positive change.


The Power of Radical Acceptance 


Stephanie's journey towards radical inclusion began with first radically accepting her own children exactly as they are. When her daughter was diagnosed with autism at age 3, Stephanie started keeping a private journal on Instagram to process her fears and grief. What began as writing for herself soon turned into bravely sharing her story publicly to connect with and inspire others.

Over those first two years, Stephanie slowly let go of expectations and learned to truly accept her children without trying to change them. She realized her kids were born exactly as they were meant to be, and it was she who was being called to change—to radically accept and embrace them. Stephanie's acceptance freed her to become an advocate, not just for her own kids but for the wider autism community.

She states that her children "are worthy without change." This radical acceptance of her kids' inherent worthiness allowed Stephanie to pass that unconditional acceptance on to them as well. Embracing their diagnosis gave her children the language and confidence to accept themselves, too. Stephanie believes this foundation of radical acceptance from parents is life-changing for differently-abled individuals.


Inclusion: The Next Step Beyond Awareness & Acceptance


For Autism Awareness Month, Stephanie wrote a passionate Instagram post arguing that awareness and acceptance of autism, while positive steps forward, don't go far enough. What we really need is radical inclusion. While many are now aware autism exists, few take action to include autistic individuals in a meaningful way. And while an increasing number of people accept autism, acceptance can still be begrudging or superficial.

Real inclusion, on the other hand, means offering individuals with autism and other disabilities a true sense of belonging. It looks like:

  • Inviting differently-abled children for playdates, not just keeping them in the classroom 
  • Employing autistic adults and valuing their contributions in the workplace
  • Seeking out books and resources to better understand and embrace neurodiversity
  • Listening to the voices and perspectives of the disability community

Real change isn't just the responsibility of the disabled. It starts with radical inclusion by everyone else, too. Those of us who are neurotypical have to do our part to open doors, change perceptions, and create more inclusive communities. As we do this, we will begin to see that radically including those with special abilities ultimately benefits those without special abilities way more than we would’ve thought.


The Challenges & Importance of Inclusion for "Invisible" Disabilities


One of the challenges Stephanie faces in securing radical inclusion for her kids is that their autism is largely "invisible." To an outside observer, they may appear neurotypical much of the time. This makes it harder for others to understand and accommodate their needs. When her kids' behavior doesn't match neurotypical norms or expectations, they get labeled as "weird" or "odd" rather than being accepted.

However, this invisibility also gives Stephanie's daughter, Campbell, a unique platform to advocate for inclusion. At school, when Campbell's class read a book about a nonverbal autistic boy, Campbell bravely raised her hand and told her peers, "I'm autistic too!" Because Campbell doesn't "look autistic" like the boy in the book, her peers initially didn't believe her. But Campbell is proud of her diagnosis and determined to show her classmates that autism has infinite variations.

To help people better understand that Autism comes in many different ways, Stephanie created an inclusive visual representation of the autism spectrum called The True Hues Color Wheel to spread the understanding that autism looks different for everyone. Campbell's confidence in identifying as autistic and educating her peers shows the power those with invisible disabilities have to change perceptions from the inside out. Self-advocates like Campbell are key to advancing true inclusion.


Small Moments of Inclusion Add Up


Some of the most powerful moments of inclusion happen in everyday interactions, like the viral video Stephanie shared of her family celebrating her son Eli trying a bite of a turkey sandwich. Due to sensory aversions common in autism, Eli has a very restricted diet. So, the family cheered and cried happy tears over this small but monumental step forward. 

Campbell's emotional reaction to her brother's breakthrough shows how meaningful inclusion is to families impacted by disability. For Campbell, inclusion means being able to share simple joys like eating the same foods as her sibling. These small moments of connection and shared experience are the building blocks of inclusion.

As Stephanie explains, "There is a miracle in every single day if we look for it...These are the things that are so pure and deserve to be celebrated, too." Being inclusive means widening our perspective to appreciate the daily wins experienced by those who are differently abled. It means cheering them on and celebrating alongside them, even if their milestones look different than expected.


Be the Change: A Call for Radical Inclusion


In a world that is still coming to grips with understanding and acceptance, those of us who "get it" have an obligation to be the change we want to see. We have to model radical inclusion in our own spheres of influence. We can start by examining our own biases and learning all we can from the disability community. From there, we must take action - not just on special awareness days but every day.

Radical inclusion requires being proactive. It means reaching out, inviting in, listening to, and amplifying the voices of differently-abled people. It means caring more about people than productivity. It means believing those with disabilities have intrinsic worth and valuable contributions to make, regardless of how well they fit neurotypical molds. Inclusion is about creating a world where everyone can thrive, not despite their differences but because of them.

As Stephanie demonstrates, radical inclusion starts at home by accepting and empowering our differently-abled loved ones. But it can't stop there. We must carry that inclusion into the world and be catalysts for larger change. We all have a part to play in creating communities defined by authentic belonging. And when we each do our part, the ripple effects will be extraordinary. Bit by bit, we'll create a society where those of all abilities are valued, included, and celebrated. That's the kind of world we should all want to live in.

Thank you for supporting Conquering Your Clownfish. If you are interested in learning more about us and what we do, please visit our website at ConqueringYourClownfish.com.

If you would like to learn more about Stephanie, please visit find her on social media and her website:

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