Grant Elementary School’s Fourth Annual Disabilities Awareness Day took place on Thursday, April 18th. The day long event was organized by Grant’s Special Education Department. Students experienced firsthand what it is like to have disabilities with activities designed to simulate having autism, impairment of the senses and physical handicaps. Videos and class discussions also contributed to the day that brought new understanding and compassion for those who are disabled.
“Disabilities Awareness Day started about four years ago when the Special Education Department asked the general education teachers if they would do a ten to fifteen minute mini lesson about a variety of disabilities,” said Michelle Kirchofer, Science and Special Education Teacher. “It has evolved into a day that everybody wants to do the full forty minutes or eighty minutes of class. It’s really become a very impactful day for both staff and students alike.”
The Grant School staff collaborates every year to create this special day, a day that has grown to become the highlight of the year.
“I think it’s amazing to have this day,” said Vanessa Proietto, Special Education Teacher, Language Learning Disabilities Program. “It brings understanding, culture and depth to the world that we live in, into the world of inclusion. We no longer shun our students or our community members with disabilities. We include them a lot, so this is just a nice way to open up understanding and to build empathy within a young population.”
Students and staff alike find the day a moving experience that brings the entire school together with enlightening experiences and a sense of unity.
“The teacher asked us how we felt during the autism activity and being an autistic kid,” said Alize Hsajid, fifth grader. “I told her that I know I can walk away from it, so it was a fun activity for me, but for kids who actually have autism, it’s hard for them because they can’t walk away. Now if I see someone with autism and they feel lonely, I can go help them and talk to them.”
“This day is so important to me,” said Sabrina Correa, sixth grade student with cerebral palsy. “I know that there are so many people out there with developmental issues or physical disabilities. Our acceptance of people with disabilities is far from perfect, but it so much better than it used to be. I’m so grateful to have all these great people in my life that see me for me.”
Each of the twelve teachers in Grant’s Special Education Department were asked to pick a disability to focus on. They created exercises, lessons and donated supplies to the general education teachers they collaborated with. The school’s Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist and Behavioralist were also a part of the preparation and day.
Image credit: Photo by Author