April is Windsor’s Disability Awareness Month.
Let us all DISABLE THE LABEL!
Students need to be able to accept differences others may have. Students should understand that although students with disabilities have different needs and abilities, they are part of the school community and can play a full role in our community. We want to place emphasis on students to acquire knowledge about disability awareness, be able to communicate with others more effectively and look at what they as a group can do to make their class, year or school a more welcoming environment for all students.
Let us DISABLE THE LABEL! Here are some excellent suggestions to promote Disability Awareness. Please read the article and share with your Wildcat. A simple hello, or an invitation to a birthday party will change a child’s world. We can do that!
Special needs at school
While each child learns differently and at his or her own pace, children with disabilities may need extra school support or accommodations. Many children with special needs attend public schools; others may go to private or other schools. If your child has a classmate with special needs, he or she may notice certain things.
- Special teachers may come into the classroom to work one-on-one with the student.
- Sometimes students will leave the room for a part of the day for individualized attention.
- Accommodations may be present in the classroom. For example, a teacher may wear a microphone so that a student with a hearing impairment can hear better in school.
Getting to know children with disabilities
Paradoxically, when it comes to approaching someone with a disability, children may be better at it than their parents because they are less inhibited. Some adults — especially those without previous exposure to people with disabilities — may be more timid. Worried about appearing intrusive or insensitive, they may not know what to say or do.
“The other kids are great,” J.’s mom says, “They are very direct, which is good. They like her and want to interact with her.”
However, if your child (or you, for that matter) is unsure about approaching a child with a disability, here are some helpful tips:
- Most parents of children with disabilities would prefer that other adults ask them about their child directly, rather than avoiding them. A smile or friendly “Hello!” is an easy icebreaker.
- Even if a child doesn’t talk, there are still activities the children can do together, such as play board games or arts and crafts.
- If your child wants to have a play date with a child with a disability or invite him or her to a birthday party, encourage it. Call the other parent and say simply, “How can we make this work?”
- Share any concerns with the other parent. Parents of children with disabilities will often be happy to facilitate a successful play date or outing.
- Extra effort goes a long way. For instance, learning simple signs so that you can better communicate with a child who is deaf (and uses sign language) will be much appreciated.
Learning more about disabilities
Reading or learning about a disability is a great way to further understand a child’s experiences. It may also help dispel any questions you or your child may have.
Your local library and librarian can be a great resource for finding age-appropriate books and materials.
- Read picture books with younger children and discuss them afterward.
- Chapter books with characters who have special needs are appropriate for older readers. Ask your child about the book when he or she is done — maybe you’ll be intrigued and read it yourself.
- Some audio-visual materials have positive portrayals of children with disabilities. “Sesame Street,” for example, routinely includes children with disabilities in their episodes.
- Websites with age-appropriate explanations and activities can be interesting and fun to explore.
Disability-awareness programs in schools
Windsor has ACE IT 25. A new Arlington Heights Council PTA for families with children with Special Needs. If you have questions about ACE IT 25 or you and your Wildcat would like to become involved with ACE IT 25, please contact Beth Deiter at firstname.lastname@example.org “A little bit of knowledge and Awareness can go a long way.” National Autism Association
Kids’ Quest, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh bibliography on children’s books about disabilities
Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana University, Bloomington, Kids’ Corner
Deborah Elbaum, M.D. is a parent of three children and lives in Massachusetts. She is a volunteer for the disability awareness program taught at her children’s school.