When it comes to asking a question about disabilities, society has been told it is a “taboo.”
In efforts to break the taboo and further education about disabilities, Highlands Elementary School held its Inclusion Week, in which students would learn about disabilities through hands-on activities.
“The biggest thing is having a place for them to be able to talk about this, it definitely seems like there’s a taboo,” said parent Christina Carlin. “If we make a space for them to come, where we are bringing it to them, we’re able to give them information and answer their questions about different disabilities.”
Inclusion Week came to life by an idea of three mothers: Amanda Bergen, Christina Carlin and Silvana Fox.
All three have students in Highland’s Special Day Class (SDC), a program at the school for children with special needs. They wanted to create a safe space at the school for students to learn how others can be different and spread a positive message of inclusivity.
“We plan to continue teaching and learning differences, but also accepting them,” said Highland Principal Susan Bender.
The three mothers decided to spread their message through hands-on activities that educate students on how impairments can affect someone.
On Thursday and Friday, students from all grade levels at Highlands rotated between stations that each represented a different type of impairment.
Students wrote their names in Braille using glue dots to learn about vision impairments; inserted their hands in mystery bins to gain insight on autism and sensory impairments; tried to read lips showing the reality of hearing impairments; put socks on their hands with only one hand and wore them as they tried to move bingo chips experiencing the reality of physical impairments; took a test in German to be witness to the struggle of intellectual disabilities; and read passages as they appear to those with dyslexia to experience a learning disability.
Participants at each station talked about the impairment they were representing and how the activities applied to the lesson.
“I think that there’s just so many people that have different disabilities that are really obvious, and some that aren’t obvious,” said Bergen. “It’s so important for students to understand what others might be going through, why they’re different and find ways to include them, even if maybe they can’t do something to the same level that other people can.”
Bergen asked the students at her physical impairment station, “Is this frustrating?” They exclaimed “Yeah!” in response.
Their temporary frustrations gained them the lifelong lesson of how impairments can affect one’s life and the importance of inclusion.