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Students Take Part in Disability Awareness Workshop
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Students Take Part in Disability Awareness Workshop

What’s it like to walk with crutches or a walker? How heavy are prosthetics? What’s it like trying to read with a learning disability?

Fourth-grade students at Fenton schools took part in a disability awareness workshop at the Ellen Street Campus March 12 and 13. On Thursday, fourth-graders from Linden schools had the opportunity to go through the workshop, too. In total, more than 400 fourth-graders participated.

At one station, students tried to wheel themselves in a wheelchair. At the vision impairment station, students put on a blindfold and used a support cane to navigate around furniture that was set up in the hallway.

“The goal of the Disabilities Awareness Workshop is to raise awareness of how people who have a disability are affected on a daily basis by their challenges and differences, and to teach children to see past those differences and think how they can be helpful and include everyone,” said Melissa Foster, a social worker at Fenton schools.

Social workers from Fenton and Linden schools organized the event with help from ancillary staff, teachers, parents and community members, including one firefighter.

Two stations focused on learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, which is a reading disorder, and dyscalculia, which is a learning disorder involving math. Students were shown how words and sentences appear to those without dyslexia. Then, they were given a paragraph of sentences that were written how words appear to someone with dyslexia. Words were missing letters, and the lines between the sentences were blurred.

At the fine motor impairment station, students were told to solve small physical puzzles or flip switches while wearing gloves to understand the difficulty of performing simple tasks when someone’s fine motor skills are affected.

Kids looked wide-eyed at the prosthetic at the gross motor impairment station. They felt the weight of a prosthetic leg and learned how to put on a sock when you can’t bend at the waist.

Students hobbled on one foot while using a walker to try walking up a few steps.

“We had positive feedback from both students and teachers. The kids were really interested and engaged. They expressed wishing they could do it longer,” Foster said. “One girl said she thought they knew having a disability might make things hard to do, but now they realize it is even harder than she thought. Two girls shared they have a cousin with autism and now they know how they can help him better.”

Image credit: Photo by Author

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